Minor League Monikers: What isn’t in a name?

Here it is, for all to see. Sacramento River Cats. No fine here. Drive right on by.

Not too much grabs the attention of us Minor League front office folks in these last few days approaching the season. We’ve all got our game faces on, working hard to prepare for Opening Day – and sometimes it feels like there’s much more that needs to get done than there’s hours in the day.

But then Triple-A Sacramento sent out a press release last week, and we all had our attention snagged:

You’ve been warned: the moniker “River Cats” is comprised of two words, with a capital “R” and a capital “C.” Effective immediately, all members of the local and national media, River Cats corporate partners, full-or-part time River Cats staff, and season, flex, and mini-plan ticket holders will be fined $1 for spellings “River Cats” incorrectly.”

All money collected will go to the River Cats Foundation, which has contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and $16.2 million in in-kind donations to the greater Sacramento community since 2002.

For clarification, the following are incorrect iterations of the name “River Cats,” and therefore subject to the $1 fine:

• Rivercats
• RiverCats
• river cats
• River cats

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Perhaps Sacramento wouldn’t have its nickname so easily muffed if Minor League teams stuck by a general rule for nicknames.

Not a chance.

For every River Cats, Tri-City Valley Cats, and New Hampshire Fisher Cats giving us a good idea of what to expect, there’s a Lynchburg Hillcats or a Carolina Mudcats to muddy up the waters. Portland has the Sea Dogs, separated and capitalized just like Sacramento, but Eastern League foe Erie calls its team the SeaWolves, Charleston hosts the RiverDogs, and Batavia houses the Muckdogs. Care for a little bird-watching? There are the Redbirds of Memphis and the Shorebirds of Delmarva, so maybe we’re getting somewhere – until you look up and spot the IronBirds of Aberdeen, doubly capitalized and unseparated. The Lancaster JetHawks and Oklahoma City RedHawks flock together, but the South Bend Silver Hawks are flying alone.

Even when you leave the animal kingdom, you find yourself as confused as ever. The Midwest League features the West Michigan Whitecaps, singly capitalized, and the Fort Wayne TinCaps, doubly capitalized. Lake County Captains fans enjoy shouting, “Let’s go, Caps!” but things quickly become confusing when one of their two division rivals checks in for a visit.

In the Major Leagues, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox have familiar monikers which would seem to set a two-word trend, followed in form by the Colorado Springs Sky Sox… so what were the Bowie Baysox and Everett AquaSox thinking?

To Sacramento, however, enough is enough. They’re the River Cats. Get it right or open up your wallet and fork over the almighty (one) dollar, in the lucrative tradition of baseball’s kangaroo court.

Because this is the wonderful world of the Minor League, the Reno Aces, Sacramento’s nemesis, cheekily posted on Facebook, “Wow, the riverCats are really touchy about their name,” following up with the comment, “We should consider imposing a fine every time the River Cats fail to refer to us as ‘Triple-A National Champion Reno Aces’…” The Iowa Cubs also followed in form, retweeting Sacramento’s press release link with the message “Good luck RiverKats :-)” preceding it.

It remains to be seen how strictly the Cats pursue all offenders of their new policy – is there an intern assigned specifically to the matter? – but the first stone has been cast. It is now up to the rest of us to decide how we will proceed. Will we laugh at the River Cats’ example, or will we follow in their brave pawprints?

BREAKING NEWS: I hereby announce that a $1 fine will be imposed every time a cranky middle-aged baseball fan complains about these new-fangled blogger-invented statistics that weren’t around when he was a kid. A third violation increases the fine to $10. Deal with it.

Your turn.

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