Often for lower level sports programs, that means unusual names that often have no immediate connection to sports — or for that matter connection to ferocity, intensity, or intimidation associated with the world of sports.

The name makes the team.

And that’s so far been one of the most challenging aspects of re-organizing a Prospect League team in Hannibal. When the league and Hannibal team owner Rick DeStefane and General Manager Matt Stembridge formally announced the formation of a club for the 2018, they did so without having a name, and therefore, without a brand.

“In the ideal situation you pick the name and in that first press conference you demonstrate the name and logo and generate enthusiasm that way,” Stembridge said.

But the league and Hannibal owners went “fishing” for names instead, giving the community the chance to “take ownership in the naming process,” Stembridge said.

“We wanted to start with a blank slate in an effort to create new relationships,” Stembridge said.

Gone are the days of the Cavemen, with sagging attendance, issues with the lease at historic Clemens Field, and losing baseball teams.

Management has promised an improved fan experience, finer facilities, and — most importantly — better baseball. Stembridge has begun working earnestly to fulfill those promises, already beginning the recruitment phase for quality players far earlier than what was done in previous years.

But the team has struggled to pinpoint the exact brand it wants moving forward. Stembridge, DeStefane, Prospect League Commissioner Dennis Bastien, and others have discussed literally a thousand names for the club since the beginning of August.

“A thousand is probably conservative,” Stembridge added.

A partnership with the Courier-Post to solicit names for the club’s new brand has resulted in 250 additional suggestions as of noon Friday.

So far, the suggestions have ranged from mild (Hannibal Grizzlies) to wild (Hannibal Frozen Ropes), but Stembridge said all of the suggestions have been appreciated.

The trick, though, is deciding on a name that checks off a series of boxes for both the club and the community.

Stembridge said the community has to resonate with the new brand.

A lot of people have responded well to the names of minor league teams that once played at Clemens Field — the Pilots (1947-1948) and the Cannibals (1908-1912). Aside from community approval, though, the brand must have marketability and recognition both regionally and nationally. A new name also has to avoid trademarks and copyright issues.

In the exhaustive search for names, “we’ve tried to find anybody who might be associate with (a prospective) name,” Stembridge said.

That includes avoiding names of professional sports teams and prominent NCAA teams across the sports spectrum, not just baseball. The Cardinals, for example, won’t work as Hannibal’s mascots.

Even the Mudcats, River Rats, and Millionaires — all suggestions in the Courier-Post’s naming campaign — likely won’t work because of affiliations with other teams in other parts of the country.

“We have to find a name that is not in use in all of those arenas,” Stembridge said.

Often for lower level sports programs, that means unusual names that often have no immediate connection to sports — or for that matter connection to ferocity, intensity, or intimidation associated with the world of sports.

Take the newest team in the Coastal Plains Baseball League.

The Macon Bacon.

That’s right.

Nearly everyone’s favorite breakfast food is the name of a baseball team.

The name sticks, though, partly because it’s unique, but also because of the play on words.

“The name is fun. It’s different. It’s sure to put our fine city on the map nationally,” Macon Mayor Robert Reichert told the Coastal Plains League.

Macon sits about 85 miles south of Atlanta.

The Bacon (which community members could foreseeably call the Sizzlin’ Bacon during a winning season) will play the Savannah Bananas in the Coastal Plains League.

Far to the north, the Chugiak Chinooks play in the Alaska League.

What exactly is a chinook?

It’s the largest species of Pacific salmon. The double “ch” sound in the name help it roll right off the tongue.

While baseball fans are familiar with Red and White Sox in Major League Baseball, even Blue Sox in the Prospect League, did you know Sox teams aren’t limited to color? Yes, the AppleSox exist in the central Washington town of Wenatchee, playing in the West Coast League.

In the end, though, the community must stand behind the brand.

An early suggestion for the Hannibal team was the Hannibal Chuckleheads, referring to the moniker sometimes given to catfish.



Not in use by another team?


Locally or regionally appropriate?


Positive response?

Not quite so much.

“The immediate response was ‘heck no, don’t use that,’” Stembridge said. “When you have something that is unique and has marketability, you have to test it out to get feedback.”

So, the search goes on for a name that will stick. The campaign to “Dub the Club” continues on hannibal.net and by following the Hannibal Courier-Post on Facebook and Twitter. Hard-copy forms to suggest a team name are available at the Courier-Post office at 200 N. 3rd St.

Stembridge said so far he’s encouraged by the number of people who have submitted names, but admits finding that perfect fit remains a challenge.

“It’s tough because you’re not going to please everybody,” he said.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com