By Bowen Hobbs
Continuing my breakdown of the branding efforts of teams within Minor League Baseball (look here for the International League and Pacific Coast League), today we will look at the Double-A Eastern League. Like much of MiLB, the Eastern League features some teams with crisp, dynamic identities, while other teams could use a total re-brand. Without further adieu:
Harrisburg Senators: The team re-branded between the 2005 and 2006 seasons, shifting from a red and black scheme to a look that clearly associates the Senators with their parent club, the Washington Nationals. The home and road caps use a stylized H with the flag/streaking baseball as the crossbar of the letterform. The home jerseys use the Senators wordmark across the chest while the away jerseys opt for a matching Harrisburg wordmark. The Senators did a good job of associating with the parent club while carving out a niche of their own.
New Britain Rock Cats: The old logo, while it has some good points, needed to become more of a sports logo and less of a cartoon. The new logo, unveiled before the 2007 season, accomplishes just that focusing on the cat as a baseball player and not as an extra from Grease. The team also uses a secondary RC-Paw logo on its home caps, while the away caps should be updated from the 1996 design. Aside from the out-of-place road caps, the identity is well executed.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats: The old logo wasn't terrible, but the color scheme certainly benefited from the update. The forest green and brown/gold was swapped out for kelly green and yellow, giving the new look more contrast and family-friendliness. The logos and type are very professional and clean. The home caps are green with an NH, while the away caps are black with an FC. The jerseys are what one would expect with the Fisher Cats wordmark on the homes and New Hampshire on the aways. Overall, the set is well done and serves as an example of what a Minor League Baseball logo should be.
Richmond Flying Squirrels: I have already covered the Flying Squirrels here, but in case you missed it, here are the main points: The logo is very well-rendered throughout the face and the body (which is abstracted to convey speed), but the hands are slightly awkward, as they are somewhat ambiguous in terms of which direction they face. That aside, the logo set and typography were developed with a lot of attention to detail. Overall, the set is very good, which is why it's in this section of the Good, Bad, & Ugly.
Trenton Thunder: The difference between the old logo and the new one is night and day. Whereas the old logo uses six colors plus white and is rendered poorly, the new mark uses bold lines and only four colors (plus white). In addition, the old emblem could be used for almost any team with the name Thunder, while the new logo implies a baseball context with the cloud holding the lightning bolt like a bat. The home and road caps use the thunder cloud from the primary logo, and the team also has an alternate cap with a secondary logo of a lightning bolt holding a bat. The designer in charge of this identity did a great job of giving the team a new take on its mascot.
Akron Aeros: Let's start with the colors: the Aeros use black, purple, silver, red, aqua, and yellow, plus a percentage of black laid over the red for the cat's stripes. Including white, the team uses eight colors. That is far too many for any team. Second, looking at the type, the warping on the AEROS wordmark is a little awkward. Furthermore, AKRON is in Copperplate. What is the point of using a typeface that belongs on the side of old buildings within the context of a futuristic scheme? The motion line and planet aren't bad, nor is the rendering of the cat (although a cat doesn't necessarily say Aeros to me). It's time to update the entire package. Both caps (the away uses a black brim) use the cat over an A, but there is no precedent within the rest of the scheme for using the style of A from the caps. While some of the pieces are good, they don't come together as a unified brand.
Bowie BaySox: It's not the worst logo in MiLB, but it could be more interesting. The colors are unique, combining the parent-club Baltimore Orioles' black and orange with teal to establish the BaySox part of the identity. The stylized B makes a good cap logo, but the type could be better. The BOWIE BAYSOX wordmark and the word BASEBALL under it are typeset in Copperplate, and while they could have gotten away with using it on the main wordmark, the serifs on BASEBALL are quite difficult to see at smaller sizes, making the word less legible. The home jerseys use a different wordmark, which is a script designed to look like the Orioles' wordmark. The issue is that the B in Baysox has too much of an opening at the bottom, causing it to read as "Raysox". Once again, I've seen worse identities in MiLB, but I've also seen numerous schemes that were better.
Portland Sea Dogs: Once a Marlins affiliate, the Sea Dogs changed their color scheme when switching to the Red Sox, but didn't change the logo or wordmark. The logo isn't a bad concept, but there is certainly room for improvement. The P is rather generic, and the sea dog could use some bolder lines to give it more attitude. The caps use the P logo, and the home jerseys use the Sea Dogs wordmark. The away jerseys, however, use the word PORTLAND typeset in the Red Sox jersey letters, which should probably be incorporated into the identity if the team is going to use them in that capacity.
Reading Phillies: I generally do not care for the idea of using the parent club's name because it leads teams to take the easy way out. By "easy way out" I mean using the parent club's graphic identity without the team establishing it's own brand. The R-Phils, did however, establish their own graphic identity. They have a custom wordmark and are the only team in MiLB using pink (if only as a highlight color for the red type). The wordmark isn't great, but at least it is unique, and the team was somewhat handcuffed by being named after its parent club's home town. The R-Phils use a number of caps with variations on their R logo , but the primary jerseys use the Philadelphia team's font, while the batting practice jerseys use the custom wordmark.
Altoona Curve: The logo is a great idea, but the color scheme and illustration style make the mark appear dated. The color scheme (black, burgundy, forest green, silver) lacks pop as most of the colors are on the dark side on the scale and the two lighter colors (silver & white) are desaturated. The secondary logo, an A with a smoking/speeding baseball, is adequate for the identity, while the tertiary logo look rather unbalanced. The jerseys don't match the rest of the identity since the team used the Pirates' typeface.
Binghamton Mets: When I mentioned the "easy way out" this is exactly the type of brand-borrowing I was talking about. The illustration of the bee could use an update, and it is slapped against an existing Mets wordmark. The caps put the bee inside a B, and the jerseys just say Mets.
Erie SeaWolves: The logo competes with the Omaha Royals for the title "Worst Logo in MiLB". It's supposed to look like an old sailor's tattoo, but unfortunately for the SeaWolves it's a sports logo, not a tattoo. The hat shading is illogical, the fur looks unrealistic (even for a logo), the wolf is wearing two bandanas (which isn't necessary), and the crossed bats look like clip art. Furthermore, the typography is downright awful. Nothing says SeaWolves like a vertically arched sans serif typeface with drop shadows combined with a gradient on the supporting type (making it illegible). The caps use the same wolf head and crossed bats, and the jerseys use the same generic wordmark. This identity is in the ugly category for every reason.
Today's design features my attempt to re-brand the Erie SeaWolves. I scrapped everything: the wolf head, the type, even the colors. Speaking of colors, I chose to work with navy, orange, and grey to show the team's affiliation to the Detroit Tigers. The primary logo takes the idea of the existing SeaWolves logo of a pirate-wolf over crossed bats, but re-renders it. The wolf-head is no longer a three-quarters view, but instead is a straight-on view over the crossed bats for more of a Jolly Roger feel. I have also added scars and a meaner scowl to the wolf. The wordmark in the primary logo is a custom typeface with notches removed from the letterforms to match the distress on the wolf's hat as well as the wolf's scars. The supporting logos include two partial logos, an E monogram, and a ball-and-bats Jolly Roger that could become a secondary mascot a la Mr. Celery.
The caps allow for multiple options of using the wolf head and crossed bats logo and the E monogram. In addition, there is also a wraparound cap that mimics the captain hat the wolf is wearing. The primary uniforms are somewhat conservative, yet not the expected templated jerseys that many teams use. While the collar and pants use a double orange stripe, the sleeves use a triple stripe that gives the subtle impression of a sea captain. The alternate home and away jerseys are navy versions of the primaries. The home jerseys use the SeaWolves wordmark and the Jolly Roger patch, while the away jerseys use an Erie wordmark and the wolf head and crossed bats logo. Alternates 3 and 4 are a bit less conventional. Alternate 3 uses the wraparound cap design and pairs it with a jersey featuring horizontal broad stripes for a uniquely pirate feel. Alternate 4 is an all-navy set paired with a white cap for an old-timey vintage appearance.
Feel free to leave a comment on the Good, Bad, & Ugly of the Eastern League, the SeaWolves concept above, or anything sports branding related.