Branding in professional baseball is hard. Not always, but a lot of the time there aren’t any slam dunk ways to market your baseball team and you settle on what you think will work the best. Then there are the times when what you think will work the best is you as an affiliated minor league club adopting your parent club’s nickname. It’s a simple solution and one that works for many teams. The Iowa Cubs are an institution in their region and a lot of that is tied directly into their longtime usage of the Cubs nickname. I get that, I don’t like it all that much, but I at least understand. Then there is the case of the Grand Junction Rockies and I am left baffled.
The Grand Junction franchise has had a few different brands throughout the years. In 2012 their ownership decided to really solidify their affiliation to the Colorado Rockies by taking on their nickname. From 2013 through 2019 they were a Rookie-level team in Minor League Baseball’s Pioneer League that wore the Rockies brand with some sense of pride. In the year 2021, they are still wearing the Rockies branding and I really don’t get why?
A result of Rob Manfred’s One Baseball initiative was the complete removal of the Pioneer League from affiliated baseball. The entire league has become an unaffiliated league and most of its teams came along with them. Grand Junction was one of those teams, but they remained the Rockies. It’s never made all that much sense to me, why would you maintain any connection to a team that told you to get to stepping? The ownership in Colorado fully supported and helped the One Baseball initiative to come about. They made the decision to support a plan that would mean that Grand Junction would lose their affiliation and be sent out to fend for themselves in the American independent baseball landscape.
Knowing the above, it’s hard to envision any scenario where it makes sense for Grand Junction to remain the Rockies. I wouldn’t want to remain linked with a parent that no longer wanted me. Rebranding is very hard and costly, I get that. But, in the end, building a new identity that is wholly yours and doesn’t hold a deep-rooted link to the parent team that threw you to the wayside would be worth the financial and logistical headache of a rebrand. Yet, here we are a week into the 2021 Pioneer League season and the Grand Junction Rockies still exist. Truly one of the most perplexing things to come about in unaffiliated North American baseball in some time.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Minor League Baseball