Next spring, as is protocol, Marlins officials will speak to the organization’s prospects in major league camp, often telling each prospect the minor league level he will open the season at.
In seasons past, there were two common options: Miami’s Double-A affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns, and Miami’s Triple-A team, the New Orleans Zephyrs. However, starting next season, that will change.
Now, Marlins prospects will either open the season with the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp or the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes. Both franchises opted to change their names this offseason, and the timing was a coincidence. Nonetheless, once the names were announced, they both generated a notable amount of conversation.
Minor League front office executives celebrated. In a section of the year dominated almost exclusively by college and professional football, minor league teams entered the conversation.
“It shows people being engaged,” Cookie Rojas, the Baby Cakes’ general manager, said. “They’re talking about minor league baseball here in November in a football crazed part of the country. Being the topic of conversation is much better than not being talked about at all.”
The Jacksonville Suns
Owner Ken Babby purchased the then-Suns, his second minor league team, in March 2015. However, he allowed the existing ownership core one final season before he took over in September.
After he purchased the team, Babby reached out to Jacksonville residents to determine what made the city distinct, Marco LaNave, the team’s media and public relations manager, said. With an emphasis on local ties and “affordable family fun,” the organization came up with the name Jumbo Shrimp.
“The ownership has been in constant conversation with the community and fans,” LaNave said. “Part of it was learning what Jacksonville is all about and what the city is all about.”
And so, with that, the Jumbo Shrimp were created:
Some fans quickly warmed up to the new logo:
Not every fan was convinced, though:
Feel bad for guys in the Marlins system. They'll go from AA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp to AAA New Orleans Baby Cakes #hangwithem— Jimmy Moran (@Jimmy_M90) November 15, 2016
The New Orleans Zephyrs
When the Zephyrs moved from Denver to New Orleans, the club’s front office decided not to change the name. The Zephyrs would remain the Zephyrs.
“They just took the name off and slapped the new one on it,” Rojas said. “We wanted to craft something that was unique to the city.”
The organization’s front office took a similar fan-based approach but decided to create a contest. Fans were asked to submit name recommendations for the franchise that reflected the New Orleans culture.
The front office trimmed the list of suggestions down to three, and the name Baby Cakes is a combination of several recommendations, Rojas said. The concept of the cake is a Mardi Gras tradition.
Each cake is round with “cinnamon filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle,” according to the Mardi Gras Day website. Sugar and glaze cover the top of the cake.
Plastic babies are baked inside of the cake, and whoever receives the cake with the baby baked inside has to buy the next cake, Rojas said. The concept is distinct to New Orleans, something the club’s top executives wanted the Zephyrs to become.
“It’s something that’s special and unique,” Rojas said. “It makes it so much better when it’s something truly unique and different.”
And, with that, the Baby Cakes were established:
We're proud to introduce our new identity - the New Orleans Baby Cakes! pic.twitter.com/6kWLXkRmCf— NOLA Baby Cakes (@cakesbaseball) November 15, 2016
The batting practice, home and away cap of the newly named Marlins AAA affiliate, the New Orleans Baby Cakes pic.twitter.com/sqhUzfoTNr— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 16, 2016
Marlins outfield prospect Destin Hood was against changing the club’s name to the Baby Cakes, Rojas said. But when Hood saw the design, he said “this is probably one of the nicest uniforms and logos I’ve ever seen,” according to Rojas.
Not everyone will be pleased with the change. The front office anticipated that.
“There’s a lot of anger, people who can’t identify with it,” Rojas said. “People are hesitant of change. This is what the natural reaction is and that’s OK. We wanted it and we expected it. I enjoy that passion.”
Generally, teams report transactions in a broad sense. X player is optioned to Double-A Jacksonville, for example. But don’t forget that starting this season, some Marlins players will be sent to the Jumbo Shrimp or the Baby Cakes.