New Minors parks, team names for '21

At long last, Trash Pandas, Cannon Ballers & more set to make on-field debuts

May 4th, 2021

The Minor League Baseball season begins Tuesday, marking the first time Minor League games have been played since September of 2019. There will be a lot to look forward to come Opening Night, including a robust slate of ballpark, team name and logo debuts.

Six Minor League teams are set to play in new ballparks in 2021, the most in a single season since seven made their debut in 2005. Four of these 2021 openings -- Kannapolis, Wichita, Fredericksburg and Rocket City -- were originally set for 2020, but the cancellation of the season made this an obvious impossibility. Two more -- Worcester and Beloit -- are now poised to join that mix. All six of these teams have rebranded (or will rebrand) in conjunction with the move to their new home.

Curious about these new facilities and each team's corresponding new look, as well as other significant additions to the Minor League Baseball landscape? This article provides a roundup.

New Ballparks, New Looks

Team: Rocket City Trash Pandas (Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels)
Ballpark: Toyota Field

The Trash Pandas are located in Madison, Ala., representing the greater Huntsville area. The "Rocket City" geographical designation is a reference to Huntsville's longstanding nickname, which pays homage to the city's aerospace and defense industry. Jason Klein of the logo design firm Brandiose said the Trash Panda logos "tell the story of a raccoon with ingenuity cobbling together all the elements he needs to launch a trash can into outer space." The Trash Pandas previously existed in the form of the Mobile BayBears, who played their final season in 2019.

The Trash Pandas make their debut at Toyota Field on May 11, marking the return of Double-A baseball to the Huntsville area after a seven-year absence. The team's space raccoon-themed branding is evident throughout the ballpark, with attractions including The Junkyard team store and Dumpster Dive concession stand.

Team: Fredericksburg Nationals (Low-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals)
Ballpark: New Fredericksburg Ballpark

The Fredericksburg Nationals relocated from Woodbridge, Va.,, where they were known as the Potomac Nationals. The team opted to retain the Nationals name, as Washington, D.C., is located just 54 miles to the north of Fredericksburg. But in conjunction with the move, they released a new set of logos designed by Studio Simon. The Potomac Nationals were called the P-Nats; similarly, the Fredericksburg Nationals will be commonly known as the FredNats. One of the alternate logos depicts noted Fredericksburg resident George Washington swinging an axe.

Fredericksburg's facility does not yet have a name, but it will be ready to go when the FredNats make their home debut on May 11. This 5,000 capacity downtown ballpark has already hosted plenty of baseball action, serving as Washington's alternate training site in both 2020 and 2021.

Team: Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (Low-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox)
Ballpark: Atrium Health Ballpark

After 19 seasons as the Intimidators, Kannapolis's team changed its name to the Cannon Ballers. Another Studio Simon logo creation, Cannon Ballers refers to the carnival-like atmosphere that will permeate brand-new Atrium Health Ballpark. More significantly, it's a nod to the (now defunct) Cannon Mills textile company for which Kannapolis is named. The titular cannon baller sports a bushy mustache, not unlike Kannapolis native Dale Earnhardt Sr. (who inspired the team's previous "Intimidators" moniker). The NASCAR racer's No. 3 is subtly embedded within the "B" of "Ballers."

The Cannon Ballers begin the season at home on Tuesday, making them the first Minor League team of the season to play in a new ballpark. Located in downtown Kannapolis, Atrium Health Ballpark doubles as a public park that is accessible to the community on a year-round basis.

Team: Wichita Wind Surge (Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)
Ballpark: Riverfront Stadium

The Wind Surge, who relocated from New Orleans following the 2019 season, are the only Minor League team in the state of Kansas. The name references Wichita's status as the "air capital of the world," while the Pegasus in the primary logo serves as an aspirational symbol representing forward momentum (a "surge" forward, if you will). The logos, another of which features Wichita's city flag, were designed by Todd Radom.

Riverfront Stadium is located in the same spot as Wichita's previous Minor League ballpark, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. That facility hosted the city's previous Minor League team, the Wranglers, who were members of the Texas League from 1987-2007. Riverfront Stadium, located in the Historic Delano District, hosts its first Wind Surge game on May 11.

Team: Worcester Red Sox (Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)
Ballpark: Polar Park

Worcester's team is officially known as the Red Sox, but the team's branding centers around the "WooSox" nickname. The bat-wielding smiley face in the primary logo, his stance modeled after Ted Williams, references the fact that that iconic smiley face logo was created in Worcester. The heart at the center of the "W," meanwhile, is a nod to the central Massachusetts city's role as "the heart of the Commonwealth." The WooSox were formerly the Pawtucket Red Sox -- or PawSox -- who played at historic McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.

Polar Park, designed in part by renowned ballpark architect Janet Marie Smith, is located in downtown Worcester. The approximately 10,000 capacity facility, featuring train tracks beyond left field and Fenway Park-style architectural quirks, will host its first WooSox game on May 11.

Team: Beloit Snappers (High-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins)
Ballpark: ABC Supply Stadium

The Snappers are opening the 2021 season at their longtime home of Pohlman Field, where fans can now buy naming rights on a per-game basis. At some point later this season they will move to a new ballpark, ABC Supply Stadium. The ballpark is located alongside the Rock River, a proverbial stone's throw from the Wisconsin/Illinois border. The Snappers originally planned to rebrand in conjunction with the move to the new ballpark, but have put that on hold until 2022. The new team name may come from one of five previously announced "Name the Team" contest finalists: Cheeseballs, Moo, Polka Pike, Sky Carp and Supper Clubbers.

New Names (Same Ballpark)

Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Low-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)

Previously known as the Miracle, Fort Myers' longstanding Minor League team is now known as the Mighty Mussels. This alliterative name references both local aquaculture and a healthy lifestyle. The primary logo depicts, yes, a muscular mussel. "When you walk along the beach and spot a mussel shell, looking at its colors as the light reflects off the black shell, there's purple, light blue and orange," said team owner Andrew Kaufman, explaining the team's aesthetic "Well, those would be cool colors from a character development standpoint. Think Disney, but edgy."

Jersey Shore BlueClaws (High-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies)

The BlueClaws' name remains, but the team has changed its geographical signifier from Lakewood to Jersey Shore. In conjunction with this, they unveiled a new set of beach and boardwalk-themed logos. The BlueClaws, who played their first season in 2001, describe their new color scheme as "Phillies Red, Dark Atlantic Blue, Crab Blue and Golden Yellow."

New to Minor League Baseball

Finally, three previously existing independent teams have joined the affiliated Minor League landscape. Click on the team name to learn more about who they are and how they operate.

St. Paul Saints (Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)
The Saints were originally established as an irreverent, counter-cultural alternative to the nearby Minnesota Twins. Now they're a member of the Twins' family, offering the shortest distance between parent club and affiliate in all of Minor League Baseball.

Somerset Patriots (Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees)
Based in central New Jersey, the Patriots had long considered the Yankees to be role models when it came how to operate their team. Now they're set to embark on a new era as a Yankees' farm club.

Sugar Land Skeeters (Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros)
The Skeeters, perhaps best known for employing NBA star Tracy McGrady (as a pitcher) and Roger Clemens (in his last professional appearance), are located in the greater Houston metropolitan area and now owned by the Houston Astros.