DICKSON CITY – After months of speculation and bickering by traditionalists, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre baseball franchise finally unveiled its new nickname on Wednesday.
And not many fans walked out of Genetti Manor disappointed.
On a night when the phrase a new era of baseball in Northeast Pennsylvania was first stated by team president and general manager Rob Crain and team public address announcer John Davies, then echoed by several of the hundreds in attendance, the historic period began with the team adopting the nickname RailRiders after being known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees for the last six years since New York's affiliate came to the area.
Numerous outlets had stated that Trolley Frogs was the favorite to win the popularity contest. But the results were kept so secretive that no one outside of the organization had a clue about the winning name, which Crain said was known since August but wasn't leaked out until mere minutes before the announcement at 6:15 p.m.
To keep it a secret for this long made this event even better. There was so much anticipation, and then all of a sudden, boom, it's here, and we're excited, Crain said. For the last week all I heard was ‘They're going to be the Trolley Frogs. There's no chance, they're the Trolley Frogs.' Surprise.
The name, which was one of six finalists and was selected by a popular vote from more than 25,000 people, signifies what the franchise has been doing during the last six months of rebranding itself in the community, going with the Laurel Line railway, which connected Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
But that's not all the team did at the carnival-like event, where a bounce house, face-painters, a caricature artist and several other family-friendly activities were on hand. Baseball music and Frank Sinatra's New York, New York blared over the speakers as the new uniforms and logos were unveiled.
Four local high school baseball players donned the new uniforms, which combine all sorts of meaning. The home uniforms maintain the Yankees pinstripes and the navy blue cap to please the die-hard Yankee traditionalist who didn't want to see the name change. Yankees fans were also pleased to see a video message from New York general manager Brian Cashman supporting the name.
The gray road uniforms are nothing extraordinary, but the red cap consists of a written SWB, similar to the old Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons logo to tie in baseball from the past. Former Red Baron fan favorite Greg Legg was also on hand to please those who aren't Yankee followers, but are big baseball fans. People like Washington Nationals follower Bill Kenney from Olyphant, who was a Red Barons fan attending many games, but didn't go to many games when the team changed to Yankees.
He was in attendance at Genetti's donning his old Red Barons jersey and already has bought a season ticket package for the upcoming season for himself, his wife, Staci, and his daughter, Addison, 2.
I'm happy to see something that's specifically for the area as opposed to the Major League team name, he said.
Duryea's Chuck Parente, who submitted the winning name of RailRiders, was awarded a home jersey with his name embroidered on the back and will throw out the first pitch on April 4 when SWB hosts Pawtucket. He wasn't the only winner on the night. Curtis Wiggin, 13, submitted the nickname Porcupines and also received a jersey with his name on the back.
Porcupines, which according to Crain received the most votes on the ballots ranked one through three, is on the RailRiders logos on the uniforms.
There's definitely two winners, if you will, Crain said. But the RailRiders name is going to live on and it's spectacular.
There is also a chance for possibly two more winners as the organization will soon start a similar contest to join team mascot Champ as more fan entertainment during games.