The Richmond Flying Squirrels, double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, are among the most popular and distinct minor league baseball team identities out there, but the team name was not well received when it was first announced more than five years ago. In a city with a storied baseball history that dates back to 1884, a newfangled and unusual logo was not the norm. I spoke with Jon Laaser, the Squirrels’ director of broadcasting and media relations since the team’s inception, about the team’s name and mascot.
“[The reaction] was overtly negative here when we unveiled Flying Squirrels,” Laaser said. “But when you get past that shock value and you actually see how things are going to play out, and you see how the team looks in the uniforms and you see how it sounds when you’re broadcasting the game and, you know, what it looks like on a T-shirt, it’s easier to identify with.”
The Flying Squirrels, who were previously the Connecticut Defenders, debuted in 2010, just a year after the triple-A Richmond Braves moved to Georgia to become the Gwinnett Braves. Baseball fans in the city were glad to have a team, but the Squirrels had some obstacles to overcome.
“We wanted to differentiate between some of the apathy that was associated with the Braves and some of the outdated thinking in terms of promotion,” Laaser said.
I had long believed that the name came from a name-the-team contest held by the city’s newspaper, The Richmond Times-Dispatch. (It says so on Wikipedia!) So I was shocked to learn that the team name in fact has its humble origins in a barber shop poster.