Residents excited about new minor league team, not all are on board with the name

MADISON, Ala. – After two rounds of voting, people in North Alabama have spoken; the baseball team coming to Madison will be called the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

“It’s ridiculous honestly,” said Austin Smith, a North Alabama resident. “It’s absolutely absurd.”

“I’m not gonna lie my first initial thought was the first word… trash,” said Elijah Vargas, a customer at Straight Razor in Madison.

The Trash Pandas dominated both rounds of voting. In the first round, the name received 41 percent of the votes and in the second round, 44 percent. Even though Trash Pandas won with an overwhelming amount of the vote, not everyone is on board.

“It doesn’t sound like a winning team, it sounds like just what it says… trash,” said Tarae Mitchell, owner of Straight Razor.

“It sounds like it would be a kid’s team,” said Cindy Bartlett, an employee at Straight Razor. “It doesn’t sound like an adults’ team.”

When voting for the new name, voters also had to choose what they wanted the regional identifier to be. The options were Rocket City, North Alabama and Madison.

With the stadium in Madison and Madison taxpayer money funding the stadium, you might think the regional identifier Madison would’ve won, but Rocket City won with 67 percent of the vote.

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Tarae Mitchell, a Madison business owner, says he’s a fan of having Rocket City in the name. “We could use that publicity you know like the Dallas Cowboys stadium is in Arlington, Texas so there’s nothing wrong with them being called Rocket City.”

No matter what the team’s name is, many are optimistic that having a minor league team will be great for both Madison and Huntsville. Most people WHNT News 19 spoke with think naming the team Rocket City made sense, especially to bring in larger crowds.

“Not everybody knows about Madison, Alabama, especially outside of north Alabama and south Tennessee,” Smith said. “Basically if you don’t live anywhere from Birmingham to Nashville there’s a very slim chance that you know the exact location or remotely heard of Madison, Alabama.”

Some people who aren’t a fan of the Trash Pandas name are thinking maybe Madison voters didn’t want that name to be affiliated with their city.

“If that’s the name people are voting for, let’s put this on Rocket City cause I don’t want to have anything to do with that name,” said Andrew Anderson, someone who’s not a fan of the name.

People here at home certainly have had something to say, whether they like the name or not, but this has been getting a lot of national attention too. There’s been talk about the name on national radio and a bunch of minor league baseball fans are already asking where they can get a Trash Pandas jersey, so a lot of people all over the country are excited about this team.

Fans say official Rocket City Trash Panda logos are a ‘home run’

MADISON, Ala – It’s a night many people across North Alabama have been waiting for, the official logo for the Rocket City Trash Pandas was finally revealed.

BallCorps, LLC hosted an event at Dublin Park in Madison to make the big announcement. After the big reveal the gymnasium was opened to give people their first chance to buy Trash Panda gear and the place was packed.

Many fans have already picked a favorite logo.

“The little raccoon coming out of the trash can,” Madison resident Tara Taylor said.

“It was the one with the raccoon sticking out of the trash can that was blasting off,” Madison resident Shawn Ryan said.

Which is good news! BallCorps managing partner Ralph Nelson says people will be seeing a lot of it.

“That’s our primary. That’s what you’ll see on our signs, and our business cards, and you’ll see that guy all over the ballpark in different places,” Nelson said.

People had their first chance to buy Trash Panda merch and they packed into the gymnasium. The lines wrapped all the way around the gym. But fans say it was worth the wait.

“Absolutely …I’m not really from around here. I’m fairly new coming into the area and we didn’t expect this kind of a turnout for this at all, especially for a minor league team,” Athens resident Gabriel Palacios said.

Hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts and kids clothes are all available for purchase. Many people joked about how this was a way for them to do their holiday shopping.

“We came out here to see the logo unveiling and to pick up Christmas presents,” Taylor said.

Many say the logos were a home run. And even though the first game won’t be until 2020, people can’t wait to show support for the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

A Rocket City Trash Panda merchandise store will open at bridge street town center November 12 for fans who would like to the team’s gear. The team will begin taking season ticket deposits at $250 per seat on Nov. 17. You can also buy merchandise on their website.

New Minor League Baseball team identifier may not include Madison

MADISON, Ala. – The new minor league baseball team set to play an April 2020 season at a stadium in Town Madison may not end up having the word “Madison” in its full name.

The Mobile BayBears will move to the Tennessee Valley and there is currently a Name the Team contest to decide what it will be called. Voting is open until Monday and Wednesday the top name will be announced.

But there’s another part to a name: the identifier that comes before it. Earlier votes included whether to identify the team with Madison, the Rocket City, or North Alabama.

Wednesday, team owners told WHNT News 19 they are “leaning toward” a more regional identifier than one specific city. Ralph Nelson, Managing Partner of BallCorps, said the city has been “very gracious” about that idea.

“We’re getting close to making some decisions, and it’s very exciting,” he stated. “We’ve known since the very beginning that, because of where this stadium is being located, right there on the interstate, that it was really going to be a regional destination.”

Nelson added, “Because of that, we have always known we did not want to identify specifically with a city so we were looking for different ideas.”

He said a lot goes into which identifier the team ends up with.

“How it sounds with the team name. How it looks on a uniform. How it looks on merchandising. How it will identify the team to people outside the region,” Nelson listed.

Even if Madison is not in the final name, Nelson told WHNT News 19 that it would still appear in many prominent places around the ballpark.

“Madison will still be recognized on every player’s uniform. Madison will be recognized at other places in the ballpark. Madison will be a huge part of our business model,” he shared. “But… there’s a good chance it will not say Madison but everybody in baseball knows exactly where this team is playing.”

The Agreement

But Madison has a lease agreement with the ballclub that provides the team will be named after Madison. The Team Name section states:

“BallCorps shall include the name “Madison” as the primary word in the club’s team name. However, in the event that BallCorps determines the name requirement should be revised not to include the word “Madison,” then it will seek City’s consent to amend this Agreement, and City will use all reasonable and best efforts to honor BallCorps’s request, and City will not unreasonably withhold its consent.”

At Monday’s city council meeting, President Tommy Overcash summarized it like this: “Basically what that’s saying is we are going to be open to their findings and we are going to do what’s best for the team and ultimately, what’s best for the city.”

Early on, at the time the lease and licensing agreement was signed, Mayor Paul Finley said how important it was to him to call the team Madison. However, he noted at the time that could change as referenced in the above portion of the agreement.

“We did research it. We started researching other teams with regional identifiers. We asked people about it,” said Nelson. “We found that the majority of people who are citizens of the city of Madison who voted for an identifier did not vote for the city of Madison as the identifier. The majority of people who live in the city of Madison who voted in the Name the Team contest voted for something other than Madison.”

Overcash shared on Wednesday during a phone conversation with WHNT News 19 that the council would all like for it to be called Madison, but they also want the team to be as successful as possible. He said that BallCorps, and the branding team Brandiose, are experts who understand the market and baseball. He believes the council is sensitive to the ball club’s need to be inclusive of the entire region to sell merchandise and increase attendance.

To keep Madison out of the team name, the city council will need to agree that calling it something else is the right thing to do for the success of the team, Overcash said. He did confirm they are open to that.

Earlier this month, Finley told WHNT News 19 that another team identifier would require a council vote and would also impact the venue’s utility cost split between the city and BallCorps.

What’s Next

Wednesday, September 5, BallCorps will announce the team name and identifier live on WHNT News 19.

The top 5 Team names are:

  • Comet Jockeys
  • Moon Possums
  • Space Chimps
  • ThunderSharks
  • Trash Pandas

Nelson said that at the end of the day, it’s all about building a brand and a team that the community can enjoy.

“This is all about the community,” he said, “and having somewhere that everybody is going to have a good time.”