Cliff Mansley was so excited, he couldn’t wait.
Moments before he was scheduled to reveal the name of Joplin’s new independent minor league baseball team, he grabbed a T-shirt with the club logo and flashed it to a small group of his family and friends.
Mansley, the grand prize winner of the team’s naming contest, soon after announced that the team will be called the Joplin Blasters.
The unveiling of the name and logo was done by Mansley and the team’s owners during a news conference on Monday at Buffalo Wild Wings in Joplin.
The Blasters will begin play at Joe Becker Stadium in May 2015.
Shawn Suarez, co-owner and general manager, said Blasters is a way to honor the area’s mining heritage in a fresh and new way.
Joplin’s longest standing professional baseball team, which played as a New York Yankees affiliate for most of the first half of the 20th century, was called the Joplin Miners. Such Baseball Hall of Famers as Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog wore Miners uniforms.
“I know there’s a huge group of traditionalists,” Suarez said. “When we came in, there were two camps of people we would talk to. There was one who wanted the traditionalist way, and there was one who wanted a more modern approach. The thing we’re happy with the Blasters is we think this will satisfy with both camps. If we picked Miners, there’s one section. This way, both groups of people can be represented.”
The Blasters logo includes a picture of a miner holding a bat and standing in front of a Route 66 sign. The team’s primary colors will be black and gold. Suarez said team apparel should go on sale in the coming weeks.
Owners took suggestions from area residents for about a month before selecting one grand prize winner.
Mansley, a Joplin resident, will receive season tickets and a night in a suite during the 2015 season for submitting the name Blasters.
“Miners sounded kind of old,” Mansley said. “It’s great lore, but I don’t think it really connects the kids that we’ve got today. When I go to a baseball game, I’m ready to have a blast. What do Miners do? They blast.”
As of 8 p.m. Monday, 37 comments about the new name were left on the Joplin Professional Baseball Facebook page. More than a dozen of the comments were negative in nature. Several others displayed support for the name and logo. Some of the posters of negative comments also said they would support the team despite not liking the name.
“A lot of times when you have these contests, people write in their own submissions and when they’re not the one chosen they’re disappointed,” Suarez said. “We’re still very excited about this name. We’re getting a lot of positive feedback. We’re really excited about what we can do with this name.”
Blasters is not a common baseball name, but its uniqueness fits in with most of the teams in the American Association. Current teams in the league include the Kansas City T-Bones, Wichita Wingnuts, Gary Southshore Railcats, Grand Prairie Airhogs, Laredo Lemurs, Lincoln Saltdogs, Sioux City Explorers, Sioux Falls Canaries and Winnipeg Goldeyes.
“We can’t really think of another baseball team that has the name Blasters,” Suarez said. “People in their regular speech that they went to a baseball game and saw a three-run blast or a huge blast. So it ties into baseball very well.”
Renovations to Joe Becker Stadium will begin in August in order to be ready for the 2015 season.
Just like the announcement, Mansley said he can’t wait for professional baseball to return to Joplin.
“It’s time to have some fun in Joplin,” said Mansley, who has lived in Joplin since 2005. “We’ve had enough of the heartache of the tornado. It’s time to move on and move up and trust that the good Lord has some new things for us. This is one of those new things that will be a lot of fun. We want to bring families together. We want to bring the community together, and this is a great way to do it.”
©2014 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.)
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