Youth baseball and softball team moms and coaches regularly call Ben Rothrock, the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ executive director of food and beverage/merchandise. According to Rothrock, the conversations typically start this way:
“Hey, we’re trying to adopt a team name and my son came across Flying Squirrels and we thought we’d give you a call and see if we could be called the Flying Squirrels.”
This explains why there are Flying Squirrels throughout Virginia and all over the country, not just in Richmond, where the name applies to the San Francisco Giants’ Double-A team.
Youth teams in Arizona, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas and Georgia are among those that have become Flying Squirrels, a tribute to the catchy name and logo that came to town with the Eastern League franchise for the 2010 season. Most often, interested youth teams, some local, order their shirts and hats from the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
“Heck, I think we even (outfitted) a basketball team a couple of years ago,” Rothrock said. “It’s kind of like a one-stop shop where you can call in and we’ll get it done, and we’ll send it out.”
Flying Squirrels items also remain hot nationally. Minor League Baseball, the umbrella organization for all 160 affiliated farm clubs, recently announced its top 25 clubs in merchandise sales for 2013. The Squirrels were on the list, as they have been since the team’s inception. Minor League Baseball releases the top 25 alphabetically, and keeps sales figures of each club confidential.
“We have a brand that jumps out at all people of all ages. The name, that’s what hits people the most,” Rothrock said. “Whether you’re living in California and you’re a supporter of the Giants and you want something cool with the minor-league logo on it, or you just like the team name, the Flying Squirrels.”
Minor League Baseball is conducting an online poll: What minor-league team has the best hats? The Flying Squirrels and the El Paso Chihuahuas were first and second, respectively, this week.
In the Flying Squirrels’ fifth season, the honeymoon phase has not ended when it comes to team gear in the Richmond area and online. The Squirrels Nest, the merchandise store located down the right-field line at The Diamond, is open six days a week (9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays) whether the Squirrels are playing in Richmond or on the road. Those hours of operation are uncommonly long for a Double-A merchandise store, said Rothrock. Business usually is good at The Squirrels Nest before, during and after games.
“We still do well locally, but we do really well online,” he said. “We’re one of the top (minor-league teams) in online sales in the country. And that’s been real consistent over the past few years.”
The Squirrels try to make available online all of the merchandise that’s for sale at The Squirrels Nest. T-shirts and hats are the big sellers, according to Rothrock.
The Flying Squirrels name was submitted in a contest and picked by franchise ownership and management. Other well-supported submissions were Monuments, Generals, Renegades and Rebels. The franchise was more interested in a kid-friendly name that would appeal to adults, too, and allow for an interesting mascot and promotional opportunities.
Finalists in the 2009 name-the-team contest, in addition to Flying Squirrels, were Hush Puppies, Flatheads, Rhinos and Rock Hoppers.
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“We’re one of the top (minor-league teams) in online sales in the
country. And that’s been real
consistent over the past few years.”
Flying Squirrels’ executive director of food and beverage/merchandise