Field manager chosen is former Quincy University player

Matt Stembridge has had a long list of items on his checklist to accomplish since becoming the general manager for the Prospect League's forthcoming team in Hannibal.

He can now check off one of his three top priorities: decide on and announce a team identity.

The Prospect League announced Wednesday morning that the Hannibal Hoots will take the field in summer 2018. Team management also unveiled its official logo, a menacing black owl, wings spread, flying straight ahead. The colors for the team will remain yellow and black.

“Hoots just fit,” Stembridge said. “It was an alliteration. It was an owl. It was a creature. Then, we just needed to find out how to make it intimidating.”

The process of naming the Hannibal club started weeks ago when the team announced a naming campaign in conjunction with the Courier-Post. The campaign, “Dub the Club”, generated more than 350 name suggestions for the team, which will replace the Hannibal Cavemen.

“It was awesome,” Stembridge said of the naming campaign. “There were a ton of names that we hadn't even considered. The frequency of name suggestions gave us an idea of the popularity of a name.”

Three people suggested the Hannibal Hoots in the campaign — Mark Louthan, Dominic Miles, and a woman only identified as “Melissa.” Team owner Rick DeStefane liked the idea of having a creature as the name of the club. He said he often sees owls near his home in Hannibal.

The team announced five “finalist” names — the Lumber Barons, the Hucks, the Steamers, and the Huckle-Bears in addition to the Hoots. Courier-Post readers could vote on which name they thought belonged to the team through an in-print ballot. Readers correctly guessing the Hoots were entered in a random drawing to win a prize package of season tickets and merchandise from the team.

The winner, drawn Tuesday afternoon, is Mark Clark.

“To be honest, I'm really excited. Obviously you hope the community gets fired up when they see it.

I'm excited to see what happens organically at the park,” Stembridge said.

He said he can envision chants of “Hooooots!” filling historic Clemens field as well as different merchandising opportunities.

Once the team decided on a name, the process began on creating a new logo.

“Dennis (Bastien, Prospect League Commissioner) is probably as close to an expert on logo design you can find,” Stembridge explained. “He gave us a rough understanding of what we needed.”

With the name and logo finalized, Stembridge can now focus on other efforts to revive the franchise after its absence in 2017. He said the club is finalizing ways for fans to purchase season tickets with a new website. Additionally, the club can now fully develop an online home, setting up social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and reaching out to partners in the community to provide a better fan experience.

“All of the stuff that happens up to this point hasn't been about baseball,” Stembridge said. “But this gives us an identity to begin working on more baseball-related things.”

One of those things is hiring a new coach.

Also on Wednesday, the Hoots announced the hiring of Clayton Hicks as the field manager for 2018.

New manager

Hicks remembers the growth he experienced as a player in the Prospect League when he played for the Terre Haute Rex in the summer of 2010.

He now returns to the league in another facet of the game.

The former Quincy University pitcher and current Danville Area Community College assistant coach will serve as head coach of the Hoots in their inaugural season.

Hicks, originally from Whiteland, Indiana, plans to relocate to Hannibal for the summer but will otherwise retain his job at DACC. The first-time head coach mentioned his philosophy for leading the Hoots will be similar to how QU coach Josh Rabe and DACC coach Tim Bunton run their programs.

“The summer ball aspect was one of the biggest learning times of my playing career, and hopefully I continue that with coaching,” Hicks said Tuesday morning. “I've never been a head coach but I've been around the game. There will probably be a learning curve at first, but I know I have two guys (Rabe and Bunton) I can contact at a moment's notice.”

Hicks expects to have at least one assistant coach with the Hoots, though that decision has yet to be finalized. The head coach said he will work with Stembridge to exhaust all resources to recruit the top talent possible to play at Clemens Field.

“We want tough-nosed kids that want to compete everyday and guys who are real bulldogs out on the field,” Hick said. “Winning needs to take care of itself, but my biggest goal would be that we're productive members in the community and giving back to the city of Hannibal that's going to give us a lot this summer.”