CLEVELAND -- The city's MLB team officially has its new name.
The team announced through a video posted to its Twitter account on Friday morning that it will be changing its name from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians. The name will go into effect following the conclusion of the 2021 season.
“There were a lot of challenges to find the right name and then make sure the name was available for use,” team owner and chairman Paul Dolan said. “It took a lot of time and a lot of extraordinary effort. Add to that, it was all done during a global pandemic. … I'm not sure that it's finally over. But I am glad that we've entered the phase now where the name is out there and we can begin to promote what will be our future. That's actually exciting.”
First thing’s first: Why the Guardians?
The organization wanted something that paid tribute to its community and its franchise’s history. After 40,000 fans were surveyed and 140 hours of interviews were conducted with those fans, community leaders and front-office personnel, all signs pointed toward the Guardians being the best fit.
Progressive Field looms in the background when facing the 43-foot “Guardians of Traffic” that have stood tall for nearly 100 years on the Hope Memorial Bridge. These sculptures are meant to symbolize progress, a concept that’s now trickling over to the city’s baseball team.
“We think Guardians is unique and authentic to Cleveland,” Cleveland’s president of business operations Brian Barren said. “It's less about the Guardians of Traffic and more about what the Guardians represent and that idea of protection. For us and our research, Cleveland folks are very protective of one another. They're protective of our city, they're protective of 'The Land' and everything about it.
“That's one key component, the resiliency of people here in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio and the loyalty. The loyalty to Cleveland, the loyalty to one another as teammates, as co-workers, as family and friends. Those all become part of what 'Guardians' really starts to evoke from an emotional standpoint.”
As far as ties to the club’s history, the Cleveland Guardians will boast the same blue-and-red-color scheme fans have grown familiar with. The organization wanted the script to be similar to what it has been for the past 75 years, but it decided to make slight changes to mimic the structural architecture of the Hope Memorial Bridge, imitating the trusses of the bridge’s underside. On the road, the team will continue to sport “Cleveland” across its chest, while “Guardians” will be printed on the home jerseys.
A list that started at approximately 1,200 potential nicknames was whittled down to just one: the Guardians. Neither Barren nor Dolan said what other names were considered finalists in this process, but Barren noted that the polls fans and other local outlets ran to vote on their favorite options often reflected the organization’s top choices, as well.
So why unveil this now? The team had no intentions of doing this in the middle of the season when it decided to officially change the name over the winter, but the club had agreed to release the name as soon as it had received all legal clearances and approvals. When that happened on Thursday night, Cleveland knew it had to act fast if it wanted to be in control of the release. And now that it’s official and the club is eyeing 2022 for the new nickname to be implemented, it needed to have ample time to prepare.
“You've got to get your name out there soon enough so that manufacturers can start on merchandise, uniforms and all that kind of stuff,” Dolan said. “They would have preferred more time than we're giving them.”
But this is a change that the club wants to make as soon as possible. As of now, the organization has to work through the logistics of when the beloved “Indians” sign will be removed from above the left-field scoreboard (and likely replaced with a “Guardians” sign, as Dolan indicated) and all the other branding changes at the ballpark will be done over the three-plus-month offseason.
When it was first announced that Cleveland was going to change its moniker, many fans took to Twitter to express the desire and excitement over the possibility of renaming the team the “Spiders” after the 1890s professional baseball team that was located in Cleveland. Why was that not the route the club took for 2022?
“Spiders was an interesting consideration early on in the process,” Barren said. “There were some pros and cons to it. On the cons side, you had some teams that struggled on the field. There were also some great Spiders teams. It tended to be more of an affinity to, 'Gosh, the last time we had a Spiders Major League Baseball team, it wasn’t necessarily a good thing.' Again, as we try to respect the rich heritage of Major League Baseball, we wanted to find a launching point where it’s a clean slate, we got a lot of room to grow with Guardians moving forward.”
Cleveland first announced last summer that it would begin having conversations with local community members and Native American groups about the possibility of a name change. After what it learned during that process, the organization announced in December that it was beginning a search for its fifth name in franchise history -- and the first change since 1915.
“We do feel like we're doing the right thing, and that's what's driving this,” Dolan said. “I know some people disagree, but if anything, I've gotten more and more comfortable that we're headed in the right direction. And actually, the selection of the name solidifies that feeling because of the values that the name represents. We feel very, very good about that part.”
“We're enjoying today as the launching point,” Barren said, “but also taking a deep breath because we've got a marathon in front of us to get ready for Opening Day next year.”