Akron Minor League Team Seeks New Name
The Blast is out. Next up: maybe the Akronauts.
Minor league baseball team owner Mike Agganis says he will change the name that fans and officials criticized as insensitive in the hometown of an astronaut who died in the Challenger explosion.
“I felt that if the name Blast remained, it would interfere with our goals for our community,” Agganis said. “Therefore, it is in the best interest of the team and the city to change the name and not continue the controversy.”
Agganis named the Class AA Eastern League team the Blast to honor Ohio’s contribution to the space program. He mentioned John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, the Wright Brothers and Akron native Judith Resnik.
Some fans considered the name in poor taste because Resnik was killed in the space shuttle explosion on Jan. 28, 1986. Mayor Don Plusquellic also criticized the choice, and the City Council passed a nonbinding resolution urging a name change.
After the name was announced, the Akron Beacon Journal asked readers to call in their opinion in an informal survey. Of 2,700 calls, 2,400 were against the name and 300 were in favor.
Agganis, who initially said he was sticking with the name, did not return a telephone call Tuesday. But he issued a statement saying the Blast was meant to suggest space and science education, not a tribute to any one person.
“Unfortunately for the community, the team name, for several reasons, took on a completely different association from its original orientation,” Agganis said.
Fans also objected to the mascot being named Kaboom.
The team is a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians that used to play in Canton as the Canton-Akron Indians. It will begin playing in a new stadium in Akron next season.
Reaction to the name change seemed to be more muted.
WAKR radio station received few calls Tuesday about Agganis’ decision.
“I think most people are, like, ‘OK, fine, let’s get on with it. Now we can think about the name and get our vote in,”’ WAKR news anchor Larry States said.
Plusquellic said the reason for the reversal was not important.
“Whether it was political pressure from the City Council resolution or the voice of the people, or a combination of both, we’re happy that he has decided to reconsider,” Plusquellic said.
The team will collect suggestions and a three-person committee will start sorting through the names on Monday. Among the leading candidates during the first selection process were Zeppelins, Vulcans, Galaxy and Canal Rats.
Those phoned in to the mayor’s office Tuesday included Akronauts and Polymer Kids, referring to Akron’s role in plastics research, spokesman Mark Williamson said.
Agganis said the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues will make an exception to its rule that team names cannot be changed until three years after they receive a trademark. A message left at the association office in St. Petersburg, Fla., was not returned.
Team spokesman Scott Berggren said no uniforms or merchandise bearing the new name had been ordered. He said plans for a Challenger Learning Center -- a space museum at the new stadium -- were going forward.
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