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Monikers range widely

Scott Brown Florida Today

The best thing about minor league baseball is:

A: You can take your family to a game and spend significantly less than a mortgage payment.

B: Fans often push themselves as hard as the players. (You spend 23 hours a day in a used Geo Metro or a night shoveling sardines into your mouth after eating hot dogs, cheeseburgers and ice cream sandwiches as part of a promotion.)

C: Kids leave a game with autographs, a foul ball or both.

D. Intimidators, Biscuits, Lugnuts, Muckdogs and Sand Gnats.

The answer, by a nose, is D and those seemingly disparate objects do have one thing in common: They are nicknames for minor league baseball teams.

Monikers like those aren’t just a reflection of the minor leagues’ wacky nature but also the bond that teams try to create with their respective communities.

A Muckdog doesn’t exist any more than Santa Claus does, but the name means something to the folks who live in Batavia, a small northern New York community between Buffalo and Rochester.

Batavia has a rich agriculture heritage, and the farmers who work the thick soil are known as muckers. As for where the dog part of the nickname comes into play, well, using a dirt-caked farmer as a mascot wouldn’t exactly appeal to kids.

“We do have a very handsome mascot,” said Linda Crook, who works in community relations for Batavia, “a 7-foot, dorky-looking dog.”

Like Batavia, Augusta (Ga.) picked a nickname that relates to something unique to its area. Augusta is best known for the Masters, one of the four major championships in men’s golf. The tournament winner gets a ceremonial green jacket, hence the nickname of Augusta’s Class A baseball team is the Green Jackets.

“That’s the beauty of minor league baseball. You can take a fun name that ties into your community and no one else has,” Brevard County (Fla.) Manatees general manager Buck Rogers said.

When Tom Dickson and Sherrie Myers bought a team in Lansing, Mich., and gave it the nickname of Lugnuts, some bristled. After all, it could be seen as a reminder of the automobile plants that had left town.

But Dickson and Myers – they are married but have different last names – do not mind making a stir with their nicknames.

When they bought the Double-A team in Montgomery, Ala., they announced the new moniker at a city festival on Memorial Day 2003.

How well did the name Biscuits go over?

“Seventy-thousand people went quiet,” said Jim Tocco, the team’s radio voice. “The same people that said, ‘I’m never going to put on that hat,’ were all wearing Biscuits merchandise Opening Day.”

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