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Goodbye Aeros, hello RubberDucks

10/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Ken Babby, owner of Akron’s Double-A ball club, unveils the team’s new name, the Akron RubberDucks, Oct. 29 at the Akron Civic Theatre.
Photo: Craig Marks
Shown is the new team logo for the Akron RubberDucks, formerly known as the Akron Aeros.
Graphic courtesy of the Akron RubberDucks
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Call it the Dawn of the Duck.

At a press conference at the Akron Civic Theatre Oct. 29, Ken Babby announced a name change for the baseball team he purchased a year ago. The Double-A ball club previously known as the Akron Aeros will henceforth go by the name the Akron RubberDucks.

“We went through a process to look at the future,” said Babby. “We wanted a brand that was fun, that would be able to reflect the great new fan experience.”

Since Babby took over the team from previous owner Mike Agganis, attendance at Canal Park has increased 12 percent. A state-of-the-art scoreboard was installed, and a restaurant is on its way. According to Babby, $3.5 million has been spent improving Canal Park, and before opening day, that number will grow to $5 million.

The unveiling of a new logo, designed by the national marketing firm Brandiose, is another step in the makeover, according to team officials. It’s an angry bird with tire tread rather than facial feathers.

General Manager Jim Pfander, an Akron native whose grandfather worked at BFGoodrich, said the team’s name is a tribute to Akron’s rubber industry, past and present.

“It’s part of our heritage, it’s part of our history,” he said. “We thought it was the perfect name. We can’t wait for the 2014 season.”

Orbit, the space cat who has been entertaining fans at Canal Park since the Aeros’ initial 1997 season, won’t be put out to pasture. The team will have a new costumed mascot, but Pfander said Orbit still will be around the park.

“It will almost be like Disney World,” he said, “with lots and lots of characters.”

The team’s new colors are black, orange, electric blue and yellow. New uniforms will be unveiled some time after Thanksgiving.

Attending the press conference were students from Norton’s Cornerstone Elementary School. They were given duck calls and, after the press conference, the children made sure the noisemakers were in good working order. If soccer matches have their vuvuzelas, Canal Park in 2014 might have a sonic equivalent.

Duck caller Logan Slinker, 9, gave a thumbs-up to the team’s new look.

“I think it’s going to be very successful,” he said. “I like the new design.”

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said, “I’m here to respond positively to the new name. I hope our city will embrace it.”

Universal acceptance might be hard coming. Callers to WAKR’s morning show on the day of the announcement were not, in a word, ducky about the change.

“You can make an argument about any name,” said Plusquellic, who used as an example the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, which has become a popular minor-league franchise.

The RubberDucks’ 2014 home opener is April 10 against Bowie. That’s ample time for the team to sell the community on the name change, for sportswriters to work on their duck puns and for the children of Cornerstone Elementary to perfect their calls.

“I understand history and tradition and that part of it, but, at the same time, sometimes change can be fun and exciting,” said Adam Liberman, the team’s director of public and media relations. “I think these kids get that.”

The RubberDucks’ website is www.akronrubberducks.com, and its Twitter handle is @AkronRubberDuck.

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