Major League Baseball is going to be much better this year. After a stellar World Baseball Classic and the introduction of a pitch clock to the Big Show, America’s Game is finally entering the 21st century. The sport’s future looks brighter than ever — and, like always, minor league baseball is doing the most with the least.
The pitch clock was tested and perfected in the minors before making its big-league debut this year. Most every athlete in the WBC paid their dues in the minors. And now, the minors are leading the way in unorthodox team names.
Atlantic League Professional Baseball is welcoming a new club in 2023: the Frederick ?, playing at Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium. Okay, that’s not the real name; although the season begins on April 28 — away, against the Gastonia Honey Hunters — the official team name will not be revealed until June 23. Until then, the Frederick baseball team will have a question mark on their ballcap. And their jersey. And it’s perfect. (Though the jersey itself could be improved.)
The Frederick ? are the best-named team in professional sports. The Frederick ? should be the Frederick ? now and forever. Why give the team a standard name later this year when they already have the perfect name and logo? Just look at this hat and find me a better baseball cap!
Sure, the Yankees and Red Sox have pretty iconic hats, but no real Yankees fan would ever wear a Red Sox hat and vice versa. But everyone can love the “?” hat! A question mark won’t scare people away, like the “!” minor league team that’s surely coming. This hat will become a highly sought-after novelty item for baseball enthusiasts once the team is no longer the ?. This hat is perfect because most people — baseball fans and others — love stupid hats, and baseball nerds love fringe trivia (this team name will inevitably become a Jeopardy! question).
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Regionally, the ? hold the title for the best team name in the DMV. This isn’t just about baseball — this goes for every professional sports team. Most D.C.-area team names are not good. “Wizards” may be the worst team name in the NBA. “Commanders” is bad (though an improvement from “Washington Football Team” and way, way better than “Redskins”). “Kastles” is confusing. “Capitals,” “Nationals,” “Spirit” and “United” are milquetoast nods to D.C. “Defenders” and “Mystics” are kinda cool. “Go-Go” is good, but even the best D.C. team name requires some explanation (go-go is a musical style that originated here). A team named the ? requires no explanation. It’s a question mark. There’s no baggage. It’s fun.
A possibly overlooked plus is the music associated with the name. ? and the Mysterians wrote one of garage rock’s most iconic anthems with “96 Tears.” Its earworm of a hook could be played after every ? home run or impressive double play. The team has a built-in anthem. Most teams, baseball and beyond, do not.
Minor league baseball is a sports space that’s inherently at odds with itself. The stakes for the players are extremely high. They make a pittance compared to their MLB counterparts. The goal for the athletes is to move up to the majors ASAP — the odds, though, are not good. The minors are the baseball equivalent of life or death. But the minor league fan experience is the opposite. The ticket, beer and food prices are a fraction of an MLB game. There are silly promotions throughout the season. The game is typically a better date night than a visit to a baseball temple. The Frederick ? is perfect for all these reasons. For the players, it’s a reminder the future is not predetermined. For the fans, it’s a really silly name. That’s everything sports can and should be.