Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
It’s been a long wait, 30 years to be exact, but minor league baseball is returning to Huntington, West Virginia, in 2024!
Marshall University Athletics announced on Thursday that they had secured an agreement with the Appalachian League to place a team at the new Jack Cook Field under construction now in the Highlawn neighborhood.
The Appalachian League should be familiar to Huntingtonians as it was the host league of the old Huntington Cubs in the early 90s.
Huntington has an illustrious, if inconsistent, baseball history starting with the Huntington Blue Sox from 1911-1916. Other clubs have included: the Huntington Boosters (1931–1933, 1937 & 1939), the Huntington Red Birds (1934–1936), the Huntington Bees (1938), the Huntington Aces (1940–1941), the Huntington Jewels (1942), and the Huntington Cubs (1990-1994). The Huntington Cubs were affiliated with Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs.
“We did a ton of research and wanted what was best for our region, our ballpark and our community,” said Marshall Director of Athletics Christian Spears. “That made the decision to go with the Appalachian League a no-brainer. With the backing of the MLB and their support, we knew this was best for us all!”
We don’t yet know the official name and mascot for the team, but fans on social media have been exercising their creativity and AI prompt skills with a slew of logos gaining likes and shares. Proposed names include Tri-State Slawdogs, River City Mothmen, Boogercats, Buttermilk Biscuits, Jewel City River Rats, Jewel City Juggernauts, Robber Barons, and Huntington Hoggers.
The name suggestions for the Huntington team follow a trend in baseball, especially in minor league baseball, to separate teams from the parent organization’s brand and give each community a unique, local brand through its baseball club.
In the recent rebrand from the Rome (GA) “Braves” to “Emperors,” Rome general manager David Lane said the rebranding was indicative of a long-running industry trend in which “teams distinguish themselves from their parent organizations and give each community the opportunity to create their own unique team identity.” The Rome team received 5,300 suggestions from Atlanta fans leading up to that name change.
Current teams in the Appalachian League include: Bristol State Liners (VA/TN), Bluefield Ridge Runners (WV), Elizabethton River Riders (TN), Burlington Sock Puppets (NC), Greeneville Flyboys (TN), Danville Otterbots (VA), Johnson City Doughboys (TN), Pulaski River Turtles (VA), and Kingsport Axmen (TN).
The first home game in Huntington is scheduled for June 4, 2024 vs the Pulaski River Turtles, so we can expect the name and mascot to be released before then.