Ben Witkins and I have a lot in common.
We both grew up attending Beloit Snappers baseball games. We probably even worked together one summer at Pohlman Field. And, like Witkins, when the new Snappers ownership group announced they were looking into changing the team’s name and mascot, I immediately scoffed at the idea.
Witkins is passionate enough about saving the Snappers name that he started an online petition asking Quint Studer and the owners to reconsider the change. And he’s got more than 3,000 people who have “signed” their names in agreement with him.
I’ve got family members whose names are included in that 3,000. But I’m not one of them.
Don’t think I didn’t think about it. I’ve waffled more on this topic than any in recent memory.
Like I said, I immediately hated the idea of changing. After a discussion with Studer, I understood the thinking behind the decision for a new name, as long as the new name was a solid alternative. Then the five finalists came out and I was back on board with trying to save Snappy D. Turtle.
The Beloit Cheeseballs? The Polka Pike? The Sky Carp? The Moo? The Supper Clubbers?
Might as well just call them the Beloit Gimmicks, I thought.
Then I called Studer again Monday. He’s at home in Pensacola, Florida, helping out with hurricane recovery efforts but gave me 15 minutes to talk more about the name.
I asked him point blank what he would say to someone—like me, really—who was OK with a name change but thought the five finalist options weren’t up to snuff.
“I think any five we put up there, someone might have said that,” Studer said. “Would they have like Riverflies a little bit better? That, I think, was sixth place on the list.
“I think you’re going to get that (no matter what). It’s pretty normal. I don’t think people were that excited about the Trash Pandas (a Class AA team in Madison, Alabama). But they just did over $2 million in merchandise in one year.”
It’s clear that Studer and Co. have a plan, and that plan isn’t going to involve keeping the Snappers name (except on Sundays, which they will reserve as a bit of a retro day and play as the Snappers one day a week).
And so I won’t be signing the petition.
Which of the five finalists has my vote? Stick with me a minute.
First things first, let’s cross two of the finalists off the list.
There’s nothing cheesier than the Cheeseballs. Grab your grater and shred that one off.
Polka Pike is just as ridiculous. Not only does it sound silly, but the pike isn’t even the state fish. That name has been caught and should be released.
Before we move on, let’s remember why Studer and Co. are changing the name. It’s not that they hate the Snappers or turtles. It’s a business decision.
Studer and Diane Hendricks, the two that spearheaded the new stadium that appears to have saved the Snappers, have taken on a lease for said stadium that is very friendly to the city—unlike most stadium deals. Need new turf or a new scoreboard? For many clubs, that would be part of the city’s budget. In this case, the ownership group will be on the hook.
“Diane said point blank, if we build this stadium, it’s got to be run so that no one can ever come back and ask the city or county for money—most stadiums are owned by a city or county,” Studer said.
Studer said the group estimates costs of $12 million to $17 million over the course of the 20-year lease.
“We’ve got to make it sustainable, and when you look at sustainability, one thing to bring in revenue from out of town is merchandise,” Studer said. “Of the $37,000 the Snappers sold in merchandise in 2019, $4,000 came from out of market.
“So, it’s painful, it’s uncomfortable. But we’re just trying to do the best we can for sustainability for this franchise.”
So, again, I think Studer’s reasoning is fair. It’s about money, yes, but it is not a money grab for him and the owners.
Speaking of moo-lah, I’d like to take The Moo out of consideration, as well. I’m sure some fun could be had with a cow mascot and cow print uniforms, but seems too cliche for my tastes. Also, the Fremont (Nebraska) Moo are coming off their first championship in the Expedition League—a collegiate wood bat summer league. So, while it’s not officially minor league baseball, The Moo has already been done.
One more quick thought before I break down my two finalists from the finalist list ...
The decisions to keep “Snapper Sundays” and Snappy D. Turtle around are brilliant on a couple levels.
First, one day a week will appease some of the folks upset by the name change. Not all of them, as seen in Witkins’ petition, but some of them.
Second, it keeps Snappers merchandise on the shelves. Ideally, a new name and logo will be the driving revenue generator that the owners hope for. But a Snappers sales will be icing on the cake.
So ... which new name am I endorsing?
My favorite of the five is Supper Clubbers. Give me a Friday fish fry or a slab of prime rib on a Saturday night, a Korbel old fashioned, good company and a booth surrounded by wood-paneled walls and I’m set.
But I’m not certain exactly how you make that work in a logo or on a hat. If merch wasn’t a priority, I’d go Supper Clubbers, but I’ve got the organization’s No. 1 goal in mind here.
And so, once and for all, no more waffling, I’m on board with:
The Beloit Sky Carp.
Like the Trash Pandas, this name will take a little explaining, especially at first. A “trash panda” is slang for a raccoon. A “sky carp” is slang for a goose.
“I love the meaning behind the flying carp,” Studer said. “I’m all about keeping talent home. And for years, places like Janesville and Beloit and Rockford have exported their talent to other cities.
“I love the fact that this is a goose that decides not to migrate. That’s the message we’re trying to create: These communities are so cool and vibrant, you don’t have to leave.”
Without seeing any prospective logos for any of the five finalists, I feel like a goose—or sky carp—has potential on a baseball cap.
I will always love the Snappers. They were a big part of my childhood and gave me one of my first jobs in life.
But I’m ready to embrace change in the name of the vision of the Beloit baseball team’s new ownership group.
Fan voting for the five finalists runs through Friday.
Sky Carp gets my vote.