Putting a name change in perspective
By Nick Scala [email protected] Sep 9, 2021
Chuck Domino already has a name for the flap that immediately surfaced after the West Virginia Power announced Thursday that it was changing the team’s name.
“He’s just opened Namegate,” Domino said.
Ah, what’s in a name? And who’s “he”? We’ll get to that in a bit.
Domino, the Power’s president, delivered a much-ballyhooed announcement Thursday afternoon that the independent Atlantic League team would be dropping its West Virginia Power name and changing it to the Charleston ... well, the Charleston ... we don’t know what yet.
During Thursday’s announcement, Domino made it clear that the West Virginia identifier would be replaced by the team’s home city, Charleston. That’s what we know for sure.
What he didn’t say was what, besides “the Charleston,” the team would be called. The nickname, if you will.
Domino only offered a clue: The nickname would be two words, each one five letters long, with the second word ending in the letter S.
That alone warmed my heart, because as I’ve written before, I’ve always hated the Power name. Too much ambiguity. Is it plural or singular? Do we say the Power are, or the Power is? I was never really sure, but now I can rest easier, knowing that the team’s new nickname will be a plural of ... well, some animate object or being, I guess.
Domino also announced a contest, already up on the team’s website, asking fans to guess what the new name might be. The winner gets two season tickets for the 2022 season, a new team jersey and a new team hat.
Domino said the new name will be revealed on Tuesday, Sept. 28, before the start of the second game of a doubleheader that day at the team’s home ballpark, Appalachian Power Park.
Trouble is, the new name might already be out there. Which brings us to “he.”
Tom Bragg, a former Gazette-Mail sports writer, was tipped off via his Twitter handle @TomBraggSports that the Power, operating as Charleston Professional Baseball Co. LLC, had submitted a reservation, dated Sept. 2, to the West Virginia Secretary of State website for a DBA (doing business as) to trademark the name of the Charleston Dirty Birds. Andy Shea, the team’s owner, had his name attached to the document. Bragg posted a link to the WVSOS document to his Twitter account.
(Full disclosure: Tom is my stepson.)
Between the time of Bragg’s Twitter post and this writing, two more potential names appeared on the SOS document: the Charleston River Toads, and the Charleston Rough Necks.
What for the love of Babydog — oh, by the way, the Charleston Baby Dogs was one of the names offered when the Power began looking for suggestions for the new team name — is going on here?
Domino confirmed that the Dirty Birds name was indeed filed by the team with the SOS office.
“That is one of them,” Domino said. “Tom can go and see if he can find the other ones. There were three.”
Well, either all three are already out there, or some of them — all of them? — are merely a smokescreen to send internet sleuths off the scent.
Domino offered his take on the post-announcement developments late Thursday afternoon.
“Let’s keep things in perspective here,” said Domino, whose award-winning minor-league administrative credentials stretch back to the early 1980s. “With everything going on in Afghanistan, and with COVID-19, this is all kind of insignificant, don’t you think? We’re just trying to have fun with this.”
In any event, Domino insisted that the leak, real or imagined, wouldn’t affect the team’s “guess the name” contest.
“No, it changes nothing,” he said. “We’re moving forward with plans to reveal the name on the 28th of September. People can think what they want.”
And what do people think of, say, the Charleston Dirty Birds? Judging by the responses to Bragg’s Twitter post, it’s not going over well.
This isn’t Domino’s first minor-league rebranding rodeo. In his lengthy career, he’s been involved with the renaming of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Akron Rubber Ducks, the Hartford Yard Goats and the Rocket City Trash Pandas.
Some of those names make Dirty Birds seem kind of, I don’t know ... normal?
Domino, maybe anticipating some backlash, mentioned during the announcement that changing the name of a team is “not always a popular thing.”
“Even though 90% want the name changed, everyone has their own idea of what the name should be,” he said. “There’s always a little bit of shock when they find out what the name is.
“When we chose the name Iron Pigs in Lehigh Valley, people were outraged. We had people say they would never attend a game. But I can tell you, within about a week of naming them the Iron Pigs, we had grown men, grown women, wearing plastic pig snouts. And that team was one of the most successful teams in minor league baseball, and that name and that logo won an award.”
Domino also mentioned the hate mail he received at the offices of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. “We set an attendance record that first year, and that name and logo won design of the year.”
Like it or not, minor-league baseball is as much about marketing as it is about win-loss records. Probably more so. Domino admits as much.
“It’s 100% marketing,” he said. “This business, like any business, is about maximizing revenue. If we can maximize revenue by selling merchandise, that’s what we’re gonna go. It’s a big part of what we do.”
Me? I don’t pay much attention to branding or merchandise, as long as pro baseball is back in Charleston. It’s an added bonus that the team — the Power, Charlies, Dirty Birds, River Toads, Rough Necks, Jimbo Jacks, whatever — is in the midst of a September playoff push.
And yes, it’s a lot of fun.
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