The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees aren‚??t just getting out of town this season.
They‚??re getting a new name.
The top minor league baseball affiliate of the New York Yankees will play as the Empire State Yankees this summer, International League officials announced Wednesday.
‚??I wouldn‚??t call it a name change. It‚??s an alternate name,‚?Ě said International League President Randy Mobley, who assured the team will still be known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on official league documents. ‚??The formal name of the team has not changed, will not change.‚?Ě
But the name on the uniforms, hats and logos will.
‚??We felt we should do something to commemorate this historic season,‚?Ě said Rochester General Manager Dan Mason, who generated the idea to call the Triple-A Yankees something other than Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for this summer. ‚??We thought it would be a neat marketing idea.‚?Ě
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called the team the Empire State Yankees in reports as far back as November.
‚??They‚??ll be with the Empire State Yankees, our Triple-A team that will be nomadic,‚?Ě Cashman said to the New York Daily News when talking about prospects last year.
Mason said he pitched the idea to SWB Yankees President Kristen Rose and Mandalay, which operates the SWB Yankees. He said both parties embraced the suggestion, and took it to the parent New York Yankees. Not only did the parent Yankees approve the proposition, Mason said, they‚??re the ones who came up with the name Empire State Yankees.
‚??The next step is try to come up with some merchandise to go along with it,‚?Ě Mason said. ‚??We‚??ll have two different caps, two different tops just for this season.‚?Ě
That‚??ll only highlight a year of difference for the top farm team of the parent New York Yankees.
Northeastern Pennsylvania‚??s Triple-A team was forced from its Moosic home, where the Yankees spent the past five seasons, due to planned renovations estimated to take place through this summer.
That left the Triple-A Yankees scrambling to find alternate sites to play home games this season, and most of them will be at stadiums in New York state.
Rochester‚??s Frontier Field will host 37 home games for the Triple-A Yankees, while 10 more will be played in Syracuse, seven in Batavia and six in Buffalo.
That means 60 of the team‚??s 72 ‚??home‚?Ě games will be played in New York state this season, and 84 of the team‚??s total of 144 games will be played in upstate New York.
‚??We‚??re looking forward to calling Rochester and upstate New York our primary home for the 2012 season,‚?Ě New York Yankees COO Lonn Trust said in a statement, ‚??and the opportunity for our Triple-A team to play in front of so many Yankees fans across the region.‚?Ě
Hence the name changing to Empire State Yankees.
‚??As long as they change it back next year,‚?Ě warned Jim Gelsoichter, a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees season ticket holder from Wilkes-Barre.
He‚??s not the only Northeastern Pennsylvania baseball fan concerned with the name change.
‚??I don‚??t love it,‚?Ě said local Yankees fan Ryan Novick of Wilkes-Barre. ‚??They‚??re supposed to be our team.‚?Ě
They still are, Mobley insisted. This is just a way for New York state to better market an out-of-town product.
‚??It‚??s all in the course of having a little bit of fun with it,‚?Ě Mobley said. ‚??People shouldn‚??t take it too seriously. If it had been a suggestion to make a hard-and-fast name change, that would have been a problem.‚?Ě
It‚??s no problem to some area fans ‚?? especially those who relished watching the Columbus Clippers play in Moosic as the Triple-A affiliate of the parent Yankees before moving to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2007.
‚??We‚??d go (to the since-renamed PNC Field) when the Clippers came in,‚?Ě said Ryan Savka, from the Scranton area. ‚??Changing their name doesn‚??t really bother me.‚?Ě
But some people aren‚??t buying into the idea of a one-year name change, while fearing this may be a strong sign the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees could be gone for good.
‚??I don‚??t believe them now,‚?Ě Novick said. ‚??Why would they change their name for one year? It basically shouldn‚??t be anything but Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If they‚??re going to leave, they should leave now.‚?Ě
Mason doesn‚??t envision the Triple-A Yankees going anywhere but back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when upgrades are completed in their PNC Field home.
‚??It‚??s just a one-year deal,‚?Ě Mason said.