At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Richmond Pro Baseball announced that the name of the city's new Eastern League team will be the Flying Squirrels. The moniker was one of six finalists chosen in a name-the-team contest which drew over 15,000 submissions.
The Flying Squirrels, San Francisco's Double-A affiliate, relocated from Norwich, Conn. (where they played as the Connecticut Defenders).
The club will play in The Diamond, which housed the International League's Richmond Braves until that team moved to Gwinnett County, Ga., following the 2008 campaign.
Flying Squirrels -- which was chosen by the team's owners, front office staff and marketing partners -- beat out Flatheads, Rhinos, Rock Hoppers, and Hush Puppies. The latter entry was a late "Wild Card" addition to the contest, chosen by CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell after he solicited name suggestions on his blog. An additional contender, Hambones, was removed from consideration earlier this week after the NAACP pointed out that "hambone" is the name of a foot-stomping minstrel show dance (the club had chosen it as a finalist in homage to Virginia ham).
"We are thrilled with the passion that selecting the name of the team has ignited within the community," said Richmond Professional Baseball chief executive manager Chuck Domino in a press release. "We have promised the baseball fans of Richmond a truly unique brand of fun. Out of all the tremendous entries we received, we believe the Flying Squirrels moniker provides the best representation of that brand, while giving us unlimited avenues to creatively explore the identity of this team."
In attendance at the press conference were Jason Klein and Casey White of Plan B Branding, who outlined the team's strategy in regards to the creation of a logo and branding strategy (The logo will be unveiled at a later date). Brad Mead, the fan who submitted "Flying Squirrels" in the name-the-team contest, was unable to attend. However, Mead's mother and step-father accepted the prize of two life-time season tickets on his behalf.
Speculation over the team name had been a hot topic of conversation in Richmond since the finalists were announced last week. Many fans reacted negatively to the choices, often citing a lack of seriousness and/or local connection as a reason. Todd Parnell, the Flying Squirrel's vice-president and COO, said that the passionate reaction of the fan base could only be seen as a positive.
"I think it's awesome, to know that the people of Richmond care so much," he said in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon. "We will never shy away from getting people to talk, and having an opinion, so we haven't taken offense. Whether people are saying things that are good or bad, it's all good because they are talking about Richmond baseball as a family again. And, at the end of the day, who's going to turn away from fun?"