Every once in a while a baseball story comes to my attention that simply put, makes me happy. These days those stories are few and far between, but they still exist. One such story just occurred this past week when the Kansas City T-Bones announced they were changing their name and branding to that of the Kansas City Monarchs. Yes, the Monarchs name should be familiar, and no, this isn’t a cheap publicity stunt.
While we all love names like the Rocket City Trash Pandas it’s not really up for debate that in recent years many professional baseball teams in America have gone the sensational route when it comes to either their initial branding or eventual rebranding. The more outlandish or absurd the name and branding the more likely a team is to get a lot of publicity. The problem with those names is that while some do stick, most are seen as exactly what they are, novelty acts without any actual ties to the communities they serve. That’s not always the case though and the Monarchs are a great example of the power baseball has to form a connection with history and community.
For the uninitiated, the original Monarchs were one of the most prolific Negro Leagues teams in baseball history. They were consistent winners and when all was said and done had produced the most major leaguers (at least under the old misguided idea that the Negro Leagues themselves weren’t major) of any Negro Leagues team. The Monarchs of old ceased operations in 1965 and until Thursday were nothing more than an important part of baseball’s history. One announcement changed all that and returned a franchise to a community that deserves to have the Monarchs as their team..
The T-Bones had been a successful member of the American Association since 2011 and played in the Northern League prior to hooking up with the AA. They won titles, played good baseball, and had built good ties with the community in the Kansas City area. At the same time, they had an ownership group that ran into plenty of money woes and through mismanagement had suffered attendance problems as the years went on. At the end of the 2019 season a new ownership group took over the team and after sitting out the Coronavirus addled 2020 season that same group announced that the team name would be changing to the Monarchs.
This isn’t a move that the T-Bones made on their own, rather they came to this point in their existence by partnering with the Kansas City-based Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. That organization, run by Bob Kendrick, is dedicated to the continuing history of the Negro Leagues. It’s not just a museum, but an integral part of the metro Kansas City area. To that end, the rebranding of the T-Bones to the Monarchs will create a long-term sustainable revenue stream for the museum. At the same time, the Monarchs themselves will become a traveling advertisement for the museum. (There are also plans for an actual traveling NLBM exhibit to be brought to every away game the Monarchs play.) The Monarchs and the museum should both benefit greatly from this partnership, but it is Negro Leagues supporters and the baseball community of Kansas City who should benefit the most.
It’s rare that a baseball deal ends up not just making financial sense but also being in the best interests of the baseball community at large. Based on the launch of the new name it’s clear that the Monarchs ownership takes their new name very seriously and will be working hand-in-hand with Kendrick and company to carry on the legacy of the Monarchs of old. The Kansas City Monarchs have every opportunity to become a fixture of the Kansas City community and to continue the history of the Negro Leagues while forming new fans for years to come. This is one rebrand that is more than just a business move, it’s a baseball move, and it’s hard to see any reasons it won’t be a complete success.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Kansas City Monarchs