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Name-the-team contest


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Northwoods League team to begin play in 2005

Jul 13, 2004

The Northwoods League, already a big hit with fans in La Crosse, Wausau, Madison, and Rochester, will have a franchise in Eau Claire for the 2005 season. Lead investor Dr. Jeff Jones says the team will hold a contest to pick a nickname, and will begin the search for a field manager and players in the coming weeks.

The Northwoods League features players with college baseball eligibility still remaining. Teams play a 64-game regular season schedule, beginning in June, and concluding with playoffs in August.

For more information, you can visit the league's official website, www.northwoodsleague.com or a site for fans, www.nwlfan.com


Go Blue Ox!


By Todd Golden

Leader-Telegram Staff

The viability of it was studied and the ball got rolling. A person to bankroll the project stepped forward. The civic hand-wringing and board votes have come and gone. The negotiations are (almost) over.

Eau Claire succeeded in bringing a deserved Northwoods League baseball franchise to town. Now it?s time to get to the important stuff: the team name and colors.

That?s only a half-joke. With the importance of marketing a brand name and the revenue streams created from the sale of team merchandise, a team nickname and its colors are no laughing matter.

Jeff Jones, the owner of the yet-to-be-named Northwoods League team, has announced that there will be a public contest to name the team. A contest is always a wise idea to get your potential patrons behind you from the get-go.

Jones said in a Sunday Leader-Telegram interview that he will take the suggestions from the contest and bounce them off of a focus or marketing group ? perhaps a group from UW-Eau Claire.

It didn?t take long for Leader-Telegram readers to chime in. One reader suggested Bears as a tribute to Eau Claire?s old Northern League team (the current Chippewa River Baseball League Bears might have something to say about that).

Another suggested Hammers, a reference to Hank Aaron?s 1952 season with the Eau Claire Bears.

Both are fine ideas and I?m certain there will be more to come. We?d love to hear as many as we can ? even your, ahem, joke names.

Jones understandably wants to move quickly with this process, so there?s no time to waste for ideas.

First off, the team needs a place name before it gets a nickname. The geographic potential of an Eau Claire franchise is enormous ? the potential fan base for the team stretches east-west from Hudson to Abbotsford, and north-south from Black River Falls and Arcadia north to Spooner. The temptation to call the team the ?Chippewa Valley (insert nickname here)? will be great.

Don?t do it. Eau Claire is providing the stadium and probably the housing for the players. Eau Claire ? from the Bears to today?s Cavaliers ? has a rich baseball heritage.

Besides, regional names are hokey. Few outside of Wausau know that the Wisconsin Woodchucks play there. And few outside of the Chippewa Valley know where the Chippewa Valley is.

Put Eau Claire?s name on it.

Once the time comes to pick a nickname, marketing firms are often consulted. Jones is right not to totally trust his investment to a public contest, but marketing can go too far.

How can it go wrong? I lived in Louisville, Ky., when the Triple-A affiliation went from St. Louis to Milwaukee (the Brewers affiliate is now in Indianapolis).

The nickname was changed from the Redbirds to the RiverBats. Colors were a garish purple, yellow, green and black ? trendy colors of the time.

It was kind of cool for a year (maybe), but when the trends that drove the name went out of fashion, the RiverBats looked like the Houston Astros did in the 1980s with their test-pattern orange jerseys ? hopelessly dated. The uniforms have since been redesigned and the team is now known simply as the Bats ? reflecting the city?s famous Louisville Slugger heritage.

I?m no marketing expert, but it seems to me that the best marketing is rooted in making the product (or team) appeal to the people you?re selling it to. In the case of a team nickname, make it something people can identify themselves with.

Most of the Northwoods teams follow this line of thinking, but there?s a couple that were seemingly born on a public relations firm laptop.

Mankato MoonDogs? St. Cloud River Bats? And worst of all, the Thunder Bay Border Cats? None of these names really identify themselves with their communities, other than Thunder Bay?s proximity to the international border, whatever a ?border cat? is.

The best of both worlds is to have a locally-appropriate nickname that can also sell merchandise. La Crosse?s nickname ? the Loggers ? is wonderful in this regard.

But La Crosse?s nickname presents a problem for Eau Claire, which also identifies with a logging past. How can Eau Claire draw upon its own northern heritage?

The mine of northwoodsy references has been worked out already within the league. Huskies, Bucks, Loggers and Mallards are all good northern-tinged nicknames that are taken.

Thoughts of Hatchets, Black Bears, Battle Axes and Muskies crossed my mind, then it hit me.

The team will play in Carson Park. Besides sporting events and the Chippewa Valley Museum, the park is most famous for its statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox outside the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp.

You just can?t do any better than Paul Bunyan and Babe when it comes to northern folklore.

Paul Bunyan is more famous, but naming the team the Eau Claire Bunyans won?t work. So it falls on Babe, Paul Bunyan?s faithful companion.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a significant portion of readers wouldn?t mind the Eau Claire Babes, but that has too sexist of a connotation to it.

So why not the Eau Claire Blue Ox?

I hear the chuckles, but the name is unmistakenly unique and is not easily forgotten and the colors would come with the name (I prefer a monochrome light and dark blue, but lots of combinations with blue work).

I envision a tough, but unthreatening, Babe the Blue Ox logo floating around on team caps worn by fans all over the area.

The local angle is undeniable ? perhaps the Carson Park Paul and Babe statues could relocate over to the baseball field during the season.

The team mascot would be priceless. An ox mascot by itself sticks out, a blue animal mascot of any variety is funny, but a big blue ox is mascot gold.

What kid wouldn?t love the friendly blue bovine patrolling the Carson Park grandstands? Perhaps a Paul Bunyan mascot could join him.

One can even make a baseball connection to the name. Red Sox, White Sox, Blue Ox? Baseball loves its ?X? nicknames.

Babe the Blue Ox is the source of countless northwoods legends (see box). Perhaps Babe?s hoof formed the dimensions of Carson Park?s baseball diamond? At least the team could lead us to believe that.

Babe the Blue Ox has trampled his way into American folklore. From the numerous Babe roadside statues that Eau Claire is a part of, to the world of indie music (a band called Babe the Blue Ox, complete with Babe album covers, released five albums in the 1990s) ? the Blue Ox is an indelible part of our culture.

I can just hear the chants from Carson Park in my head now.

?Go Ox, Go Ox!?

You?ll warm up to it.

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Another suggested Hammers, a reference to Hank Aaron?s 1952 season with the Eau Claire Bears.

Damn, that would've been my idea.

I have to say I like the idea of Black Bears though. Putting "black" in the name breaks up the cheesiness that would come from "Eau Claire Bears" but still holds on to their baseball heritage. And it distinguishes them from "Da Bears" which never hurts to do in Packer Country.

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Yeah, the Northwoods League has some winners and some real losers. Myself, I want to see the Madison Muskies return, but what the heck.

I like the Blue Ox. Never been a fan of singular names, but it really works. And the Bunyan connection is a great idea.

Black Bears is also good (and was my idea when reading the article as well). It has the Aaron connection, and is more unique. And if Wisconsin fans doen't like the Bucks wearing a Viking color, how will they respond to "Bears?" Black Bears takes some of that sting away. So long as they don't use something like "RiverBears" the team will do well.

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To go along the lines of the Montgomery Biscuits, why not have a light and fluffy pastry dessert team with the EAU CLAIRE "E-CLAIRES", and for good measure, throw some zzz's on the end of the name.

there's one good thing about having no room for a single A baseball stadium, or any non-HS stadium for that matter: if this team was gonna play here some folks would actually suggest Kringles (strangely, I've lived here most of my life yet rarely have any kringle)

if anybody's wondering, i toss you a bone




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To go along the lines of the Montgomery Biscuits, why not have a light and fluffy pastry dessert team with the EAU CLAIRE "E-CLAIRES", and for good measure, throw some zzz's on the end of the name.

I agree with you. They should be named the Eau Claire E-Claires but you can add the Z's to make it the Eau Claire E-Clairezzz. That should go along the lines of the Montgomery Biscuits baseball club.

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How about the Eau Claire Water Street Trampzzz, dedicated to all the college girls who get drunk off their butts at the Water Street bars and then try to "bargain" for a ride back to the dorms. Noboby wants to walk up that hill!

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You've never had a kringle? Man o man, if I still lived in the Sconnie, I'd eat kringle every Sunday with my New York Times.

Then again....

oddly enough, that's the truth. my uncle takes some home every time he comes up from Macomb tho :D

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