The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Flying Squirrels soar into Richmond

Richmond is already the home of the only Spiders in the country. Now, it's also the home of the Flying Squirrels.

The city will be the new home of the San Francisco Giants double-A baseball team starting next spring, and after a "Name the Team" contest that drew more than 15,000 nickname suggestions, the franchise chose its new name: the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

No, I'm not kidding.

The fact that the team will don caps and uniforms featuring our furry, flying, four-legged friends is comical enough in itself, but the nicknames that the Squirrels beat out were even more unusual.

The franchise chose five finalists from the entries, which were submitted online. The other options? The Flatheads, the Rhinos and the Rock Hoppers. The Hambones was originally named a finalist, but was later removed because it was deemed racially insensitive. And, just days before the final selection, the Hush Puppies were added as a "wild-card" finalist. But, in the end, the Squirrels came out on top. The Hush Puppies, refusing to go quietly, requested a re-count.

It's ridiculous. It's illogical. It's just plain silly. But, hey, maybe it's a good thing.

The last minor league baseball team in Richmond was the Braves. Sure, Braves is a more traditional name, but no one went to watch them, and hence, they soon moved to Georgia and became the Gwinnett Braves. In a city in desperate need of some sort of professional team, maybe the Flying Squirrels will attract more than just your traditional baseball fans.

Flying squirrels aren't exactly native to the Richmond area, but maybe the nickname will attract younger fans. Maybe 14-year-olds around the country looking for a cool, new hat will log on to the Web and decide they want to rock some fresh Squirrel gear. The team has also already proposed merchandise such as squirrel tails and squirrel nests. Pretty soon, Richmond baseball fans may be able to purchase Squirrel Nuts.

I'll tell you this much, if they had named the team something like the Richmond Rapids, or the Virginians, there's no way anyone would be talking about the return of minor league baseball to Richmond. As they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity, and in this case, they're right.

It's not as if the Flying Squirrels are alone in the realm of strange minor league baseball mascots. In fact, the minors are filled with strange mascots designed to bring in fans to see more than just a baseball game.

The Aberdeen IronBirds, the Hickory Crawdads, the Carolina Mudcats, the Clinton Lumberkings, the Asheville Tourists and the Savannah Sand Gnats all seem as if they could be the hometown teams of Spongebob Squarepants. But, when you're a minor league baseball team, why not pull all of the publicity stunts possible? I don't know about you, but I'd be much more likely to go catch a Sand Gnats game than a Stars game.

Obviously, the Flying Squirrels are going to take some time to get used to. But baseball in Richmond is going to take some time to get used to, too. By making such a radical name change, the franchise has established itself as a new team, with new players and a new attitude.

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When next spring rolls around and you're looking for something to bridge the gap between an early D-Hall dinner and a night at the lodges, just remember the Flying Squirrels. If nothing else, you can check out the Tail.

Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at reilly.moore@richmond.edu

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