The offseason is upon us and we all know what that means: Speculation about which free agents will end up where and whether or not the Angels were “in” on them. Around these parts, we hope the answer for all the decent-to-good pitchers is “yes” and all of Arte’s money is given to bring them on board.
What you might not know is that the Angels have already made a big splash to win the minor leagues, at least from a marketing and fan experience standpoint.
Specifically I’m talking about the Angels’ new AA affiliate for the 2020 season, the Rocket City Trash Pandas. Yes, it’s a real team, and yes it’s awesome as it sounds. For starters, they have seven (7!) logos, which are all excellent and which I will post below for you now.
A little history
For starters, the Trash Pandas aren’t an entirely new affiliate, but a rebranded and relocated version of our current AA affiliate, the Mobile Bay Bears. They’re moving from the city of Mobile, Alabama to the town of Madison, Alabama, which is just next to Huntsville, a mecca in the history and future of the space program. According to Wikipedia, “The name is a reference to both the area’s association with the space industry and the determination and ingenuity of raccoons.”
Raccoons, if you weren’t aware, were recently reclassified as “trash pandas” by the Internet due to their obvious resemblance to the latter and natural symbiotic relationship with the former. I don’t know if the Huntsville area has an abundance of these furry creatures, but the local public seems to have an affinity for them, having approved the fan-submitted name by overwhelming margins in a public vote.
So now you have the story behind the name of the greatest affiliate franchise in Angels history, and maybe minor league history. Let’s take a deeper dive backed by some field research I did.
The Trash Pandas experience
The Trash Pandas aren’t even waiting for a stadium to start building a following in Madison, Huntsville, and the surrounding region. That part comes next year and it should be pretty sweet if the renderings are any indication.
Right now, they’ve got a store in the local outlet mall called the Trash Panda Emporium where you can pick up quite a bit of gear emblazoned with the logos posted above. You can check out this impressive selection of merchandise here. It’s pretty obvious the Trash Pandas are going for the title in the marketing game, and it looks like they’re heavy favorites to get it. The second my coworkers and I heard about them before a work trip we determined we’d be buying several dozen dollars worth of this stuff. And the same was true for others on the trip and still others we’ve told since then despite me being the only Angels fan among the bunch. I don’t know if I’ve seen this much excitement around anything in the minor leagues since Mike Trout, honestly.
After you stop by the store, you can hit up any of the local bars/restaurants (and there are many since it’s a growing area) to show off your purchases. They’ll look good in any setting as you can see below.
As a side note, there’s also a lot of cool stuff to see related to the history of space exploration if you’re in the area. There’s the US Space & Rocket Center, which features an actual Saturn V rocket from the Apollo days and a bunch of other artifacts and exhibits from different eras of the space program. NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center is right next door, which you can take a tour of; and there’s also the historic Redstone Arsenal, where if you’re lucky you can see some of the sites that helped kick off the Space Race and the Cold War over half a century ago. All of this is 1-2 miles from the Trash Pandas’ new stadium site so I recommend taking some time out for it if you’re in town.
Trash Pandas on the field
The Trash Pandas will open their inaugural season on April 9th, 2020 on the road against the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League. Depending how Angels spring training shakes out, they could feature some well-known names for the prospect watchers around here, such as Brandon Marsh and Jahmai Jones. Some pretty great Major Leaguers spent time on the former Bay Bears roster too, such as Max Scherzer, Paul Goldschmidt, and our current left fielder Justin Upton, so you can say the franchise has a history of producing successful players.
One thing’s for sure: The Trash Pandas are now one of my favorite things about the Angels, and hopefully one of yours too. I will be buying a Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani RCTP jersey if either of them ever do a rehab assignment there. And I have a feeling those furry little critters will send us some treasure from among their trash heaps in the form of future all-stars very soon.