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Welcome to Opening Day! That is, Triple-A Opening Day. Yes, the minor-league season kicks off with Triple-A on Tuesday, while the Class-A and Double-A levels begin on Friday. The minor-league season was never threatened by the owner-imposed MLB lockout, but fortunately for baseball fans, the major-league season will also start this week. The team names won't be as good in the majors, though.

I've long admired the number of fun team names in the minors. So many of them are rare and unique. Sure, there are some pretty common ones and also some teams simply have the same name as their MLB affiliate, but it's a pretty impressive, collective effort to view a list of all the team names. 

Let's check out the best ones, by class. These are, of course, subjective rankings from yours truly with zero outside input. The best names are ones you won't see elsewhere and a good backstory is worth a bit of a bump. Quick spoiler: There are some seriously amazing names that didn't even make any of the top fives. Many of the entries are new creations, too, when minor-league branding really went into overdrive here in the last decade or so. 

For a full list of team names by class, has you covered right here. Sorry to any past team names that might have made the cut. We're going with current, 2022, teams and iterations only. 

Huge hat-tip to, specifically its "the Story Behind the Nickname" category


Eye-catchers: Charleston RiverDogs, Columbia Fireflies, Delmarva Shorebirds, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Jupiter Hammerheads, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, Modesto Nuts, Tampa Tarpons

5. Visalia Rawhide - OK, so rawhide and cowhide -- what baseballs are made of -- aren't exactly the same thing, but they are damn close and that makes this one fun. The Rawhide name is an homage to dairy famers and other agricultural aspects of community in and around Visalia. The relation to cows has moved the team to embrace the use of cowbells during games, too. 

4. Fort Myers Mighty Mussels - New owner Andrew Kaufman rebranded the former Miracles in 2019. "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 Kaufman ( "Well, those would be cool colors from a character development standpoint. Think Disney, but edgy." They also use the fact that "mussel" is a homophone in the logo to have a pretty jacked mussel, holding a baseball bat in one logo and lifting a barbell with baseballs at each end in another. 

3. Down East Wood Ducks - First off, credit them for "Down East" on the branding to attract fans from all over the area (the team is located in Kinston, North Carolina, which is, well, in the eastern part of the state). Wood Ducks live in swampy areas of forests and they apparently have strong claws. They are targeted by hunters in the area, so it's a good regional fit. Bonus: The front of their home jerseys say "Woodies." 

Runner-up: Daytona Tortugas - Formerly the Daytona Cubs, this club decided to rebrand itself when switching affiliations to the Reds. They picked a winner. There is a large turtle population in the Daytona area and Tortuga is Spanish for turtle. And, yeah, maybe allowing myself to believe it's a subtle Breaking Bad reference helped boost them in the rankings, but it's such a great name. 

Champion: Clearwater Threshers 

It's a shark. 

A thresher shark has a very long tail resembling a scythe (or "thresher"). Via, leading up to the revealing of the new name for the minor-league team in Clearwater, there were actually billboards in the area that said things like "Clearwater beaches are no longer safe" with a shark fin on them. The team also placed an ad in the local paper with a fake story that a thresher shark had been caught and a baseball fell out of its mouth. Brilliant campaign and I love taking the next step to find something more specific than simply naming the team the Clearwater Sharks. 


Eye-catchers: Bowling Green Hot Rods, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Everette AquaSox, Great Lakes Loons, Hickory Crawdads, Hillsboro Hops, Hudson Valley Renegades, Lansing Lugnuts, Wilmington Blue Rocks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

5. Jersey Shore BlueClaws - Blue claw crabs are prevalent and popular along the Jersey shore, so it's another regional home run. The club has some great logos and the mascot is named, "Pinchy." 

4. Tri-City Dust Devils - A dust devil, per Encyclopedia Britannica, is a "small, brief, whirlwind ... occasionally made visible by the lofting of dust, leaves, or other loose matter from the surface." Call it a much lesser tornado, but the win here is you rarely ever see it used by sports teams. The team is based in Pasco, Washington, but the two fellow members of the Tri-Cities here are Kennewick and Richland. 

3. Brooklyn Cyclones - Another storm entry? Sort of. A cyclone is, of course, a form of tropical storm, but this team was actually named after the famous Coney Island roller coaster. The history behind it is spectacular and "Cyclone" sounds really cool on its own anyway. Of course, I might've gone higher but you do see other sports teams with this name. 

Runner-up: Beloit Sky Carp - I've never lived anywhere close to Beloit, so I'll admit this one totally caught me off guard. If anyone from the area wants to make fun of my ignorance, so be it. I couldn't believe that a "sky carp" isn't a fish. It's actually a goose! Specifically, it's a goose that doesn't migrate due to weather, instead just staying put. There's even a cool logo with a goose head dipping just under water, nearly resembling a fish (second from the left here). 

Champion: Greensboro Grasshoppers - Sure, many would say it's just a small bug, but I actually think it's an excellent sports team name and I can't remember ever seeing it anywhere else. When I first heard of this team over a decade ago, I was immediately in love and this was one of the inspirations behind me wanting to make this list. Oh, and some grasshoppers can jump over 20 body lengths without using wings. A feat like that absolutely deserves a sports team name. 

Greensboro Grasshoppers/Twitter


Eye-catchers: Altoona Curve, Biloxi Shuckers, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie Seawolves, Midland RockHounds, Montgomery Biscuits (if we were only looking for the best logo, this would be a very strong contender), New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Rocket City Trash Pandas, Tennessee Smokies, Wichita Wind Surge 

5. Hartford Yard Goats - The Yard Goats play close to the Hartford rail yards and apparently -- again, this was news to me (I'm a baseball guy! Cut me some slack ... ) -- a "yard goat" is slang in rail yards for "a small locomotive that switches cars from one train to another" (via An ongoing theme with many of these names I've researched is the double use of terms. That small locomotive isn't an actual goat, the animal, but they've taken the liberty to make the logo a goat chewing on a baseball bat. Excellent work. 

4. Binghamton Rumble Ponies - Binghamton, New York, calls itself the Carousel Capital of the World. When the Binghamton minor-league team decided after 2016 to stop being the Mets (thankfully), it held a name-the-team contest and the winning entry was submitted by a woman named Nicole. It's easy to see that the ponies on those carousels were rumbling in Nicole's childhood memories. It works well. 

3. Akron RubberDucks - Akron is dubbed "the rubber capital of the world" due mostly to the tire industry (think Goodyear and Bridgestone-Firestone). They took that aspect of the community and put a fun spin on it, grabbing pretty much the only thing you could use "rubber" with in a family-friendly environment. It's a rubber ducky! Except in the logo, it's fierce. What a great balance.  

Runner-up: Richmond Flying Squirrels - C'mon, it's a flying squirrel. That's amazing in its own right. The logo is one of the strongest in the minors and the colors are aesthetically-pleasing. Find me on a different day and this might be the champion, but, man, Double-A in particular is utterly loaded. There are some names that didn't make the top five in consideration for the top spot (including the Rocket City Trash Pandas, yes, and I apologize for this one not making it). 

There can only be one, though ... 

Champion: Amarillo Sod Poodles

Sod Poodles are actually prairie dogs. The story goes that early settlers from Europe in the western part of Texas took to calling the large number of prairie dogs they saw "sod poodles." (Much more here via

It sounds bizarre. Just say "Sod Poodle" to yourself. It's most certainly unique, has a good logo and a good backstory. More than anything, though, this one just really caught me and I'm not even sure I could totally describe how or why. Not that it really matters, since it's my list. We have a winner. 

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Like I said, though, Double-A is loaded with what I felt were remarkable team names, logos and backstories. Pick any of more than a handful and I wouldn't argue. 


Eye-catchers: Gwinnett Stripers, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Omaha Storm Chasers, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees ... yes, it's a big step down from Double-A in depth, though the top five is top shelf. 

5. Sugar Land Space Cowboys - This is brand new, as most people would recall the formerly independent Sugar Land Skeeters. This is the Triple-A affiliate of the Astros, who embrace a bit of an outer-space type thing in their ballpark and with some of their branding (their mascot is named "Orbit," for example). We also know plenty about cowboys in Texas, so there's an intersection here and the bonus is the reference to the Steve Miller Band song, "The Joker." Is it a missed opportunity to name the mascot "Orion" instead of "Maurice?" Hmm ... 

4. El Paso Chihuahuas - The Chihuahuan Desert surrounds El Paso while the Mexican state of Chihuahua is right across the Rio Grande, so it's a good regional fit. Unique? It's possible it's not. After all, unique means "one of a kind" and it's entirely possible there's a high school somewhere out there with a Chihuahua nickname, but it's exceedingly rare, especially in pro sports. Also, that hat! It won MiLB's Clash of the Caps in 2014, as voted on by fans. 

3. Lehigh Valley IronPigs - We've all heard of the Steelers in Pittsburgh as a nod to the steel industry in Pennsylvania. This one gets there in a roundabout way and goes with another double-meaning, which we love. A "pig iron," via Merriam-Webster, is "crude iron that is the direct product of the blast furnace and is refined to produce steel, wrought iron, or ingot iron." The mascot is, then, a pig made of iron named Ferrous (iron's atomic symbol is "FE") wearing number 26 (iron's number on the table of elements). Even further, they go crazy with the branding, sporting a hat with bacon on it and selling pig snouts for younger fans to wear on their faces during games. IronPigs alone is awesome, but they take it to the next level here. 

Runner-up: Albuquerque Isotopes - Back in 2001 on an episode of possibly the single most influential TV show of all-time, The Simpsons, the Springfield Isotopes threatened to move to Albuquerque until Homer got involved. Just a few years later -- similar to how we've seen the Raptors and Mighty Ducks stem from movies -- a TV show-inspired team rose in the ABQ. We'll pass on defining what an isotope is -- though the very excellent logo gives a decent idea -- and instead point out this is yet another very rare team name. 

Champion: Toledo Mud Hens

Throughout the course of this list, it's entirely possible I've gotten caught up in recency bias. After all, I've said I like hearing names I don't really hear elsewhere. When something new comes along and sounds so fun, it's going to get a boost, naturally. 

That doesn't mean we should stray from the all-time classic, however. The Toledo baseball team has been the Mud Hens since 1896(!) and it has long been one of the most recognizable minor-league brands. One might recall that was who Lou Brown managed before getting his call from the Cleveland Indians in Major League. It also hasn't really caught on in terms of becoming a widespread team name. And yet, it's glorious. 

Per, "a mud hen is a marsh bird with short wings and long legs that inhabits swamps or marshes. Such birds have been known as marsh hens, rails, coots, or mud hens."

If I ranked all the names regardless of class, the Mud Hens would be the grand champions. This is the OG great minor-league name and it stands behind no others, even with an influx of amazing names in recent years.