Somewhere on Sesame Street, Ernie is giving Bert a big high-five.
Akron’s minor-league baseball team has changed its name from the Aeros to the RubberDucks.
Nobody enjoys a rubber duckie more than lovable Muppet Ernie, especially at bath time.
But this is no yellow water toy.
The new brand is a snarling black duck with a tire tread and flames shooting out of its head. It pays tribute to the city’s rubber industry.
“Baseball in Akron will have a whole new face,” owner Ken Babby announced Tuesday during a news conference in the lobby of downtown’s Akron Civic Theatre.
He bought the franchise last year, promising to improve the fan and family experience at the ballpark. Attendance rose by 12 percent to more than 295,000 this year, likely because of new food choices, fireworks promotions and the installation of a giant, $1.65 million video scoreboard.
After meeting with fans over the past year, Babby also concluded it was time for a new franchise identity.
The team had gone by the name Aeros — a tip of the cap to Ohio’s significant aerospace connections — since 1997, when the Canton-Akron Indians moved to Canal Park downtown.
The new name is not a knock on the Aeros, Babby said, just an evolution for the team, which serves as the AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
The team unveiled a giant banner on a downtown building promoting the Akron RubberDucks as “Affordable. Family. Fun.”
The RubberDucks also announced a new website, www.AkronRubberDucks.com, and Twitter and Instagram handle, @AkronRubberDuck.
A new mascot will be named later. But don’t worry, kids. Orbit, the current mascot, is staying.
Canal Park will be just like Disney World, where plenty of characters are walking around, team General Manager Jim Pfander promised.
Names that didn’t make the cut included Tire Jacks, Vulcans and Canal Rats.
Some negativity expected
Bill Hauser, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Akron, said the team should expect some negative reaction from Aeros fans — because everyone complains about everything nowadays. (He preferred Canal Rats.)
But he added that the new name is family-friendly and will provide a publicity boost in the community, “creating a jolt that they probably needed.”
“By the time the season starts, it will be the in thing,” Hauser said. “It will cause everyone who is an Aeros fan and now a RubberDucks fan to buy new attire.”
RubberDucks merchandise, by the way, already is on sale at the gift shop and online.
The initial reaction at the RubberDucks Twitter account was generally positive, although some noted that “ducks” rhymes with several unsavory words.
Kendall Morris tweeted (@ksmorris23): “Dumb name but more understandable once u realize akrons rubber history. Logos r cool. Much better than aeros.”
Mark Schaas (@schaasy) noted: “could be the worst move ever, will make the extra drive to erie or lake county now instead of akron #idiots.”
Meanwhile, EQN (@gallopingael) said: “If they don’t play Rubber Duckie during the 7th inning stretch, they’re doing it wrong.”
Pupils react to name
Many fourth-graders from Cornerstone Elementary in Norton attended the RubberDucks news conference. They all enjoyed the name — and the duck calls that were handed out, allowing them to quack loudly after the event.
“I like it a lot,” 10-year-old Haylee Joy said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be that good. I like the design of the logo and the colors.”
Catherine Williams, 9, said she appreciated the obvious effort it took to rebrand the team.
“It feels way different,” she said, adding that she likes the new logo.
The RubberDucks logo, designed with marketing firm Brandiose, features “blue flame, racing yellow, fire orange and tire black.”
It’s the first professional baseball team to use that color combination, Pfander said.
At Baxter’s bar downtown, Jennifer Barrett, 30, of Green, and Shana Gyure, 33, of Kent, laughed when told about the name. Then they admitted they like the new look.
“The RubberDucks pays homage to what Akron is,” Barrett said.
“I like it,” Gyure added. “I think it’s cute. ... I want a giant rubber duck outside the stadium.”
Minor-league baseball is known for unusual names and mascots, so RubberDucks will fit in. Among the more curious are the Asheville Tourists, Montgomery Biscuits, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Savannah Sand Gnats, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Las Vegas 51’s, Albuquerque Isotopes, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, El Paso Chihuahuas and Everett AquaSox.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.