It was only fitting that Phil Niekro was in attendance for the knuckleball tossed by the Triple-A affiliate formerly known as the Gwinnett Braves on Friday.
The Braves’ Triple-A affiliate will be known as the Gwinnett Stripers, the team announced at a news conference at Coolray Field.
It was a surprising conclusion to a contest that was first launched in early June. The team selected six finalists for its new name – Buttons, Big Mouths, Gobblers, Hush Puppies, Lamb Chops and Sweet Teas – none of which were selected.
Gwinnett general manager North Johnson said Big Mouths won the vote, and Stripers is a more marketable variation.
“We never really loved the name,” Johnson said. They met with the marketing company Brandiose to find a solution.
Both names are nods to the bass fish that occupy nearby Lake Lanier, and the team said it’s excited about the marketing possibilities with fishing and outdoors.
The team decided on the name and branding a little over two months ago. It credited Patrick Kelly of Decatur for the Big Mouths idea and rewarded him with two 2018 season tickets and team gear. Jay Andrews from Sugar Hill was credited as one of a few who submitted the Stripers name, and he’ll receive the same prizes.
“We needed a unique identity to stand out among all the entertainment options in Gwinnett County and metro Atlanta,” Johnson said. “We knew we had to capture the essence of Gwinnett County. We also knew we needed a name and a logo that would get people’s attention and make them talk about us.
“We will have an endless amount of material to have fun with.”
The team unveiled new striped uniforms, along with a green alternate jersey and retro jersey that pays homage to some of the 1970s Braves uniforms.
Red and navy blue will continue to be featured colors along with green. The primary logo is a green fish with a baseball on a hook. There are four different versions that will be featured on hats (home, away, alternate, retro).
“I think they look good,” said Braves pitcher Lucas Sims, a Gwinnett County native. “They’re bright. They’re vibrant. … The logo looks good. It’s pretty exciting.”
Sims, along with Stripers outfielder Xavier Avery and first baseman Matt Tuiasosopo modeled the modern uniforms. Hall of Famer Niekro donned the retro look. He also spoke in the video tribute before the unveiling.
Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz said while the Braves have always valued naming their minor league affiliates after the big-league team, he understood Gwinnett had an opportunity to distinguish itself.
“That’s a mean-looking fish right there,” he said of the new logo, laughing. “We care about our branding, but we also care about North and his great staff and all of you who support the Gwinnett baseball team. We think this is the answer to creating that unique, separate identity. … A chance for the Gwinnett Stripers organization to step forward and have some excitement, bring some news fans, new energy to this ballpark.”
Gwinnett announced it was changing its name May 22. The affiliate relocated to Gwinnett in 2009 after 43 years in Richmond.