Surely you remember Derek Jeter of the Greensboro Hornets, Albert Pujols of the Peoria Chiefs, Pete Rose of the Macon Peaches — even Hank Aaron of the Eau Claire Bears. For as long as major league baseball has been our national pastime, minor league play has helped us pass the time.They are our other boys of summer: young guys who swing by for a week, a month, a season or more, often failing but occasionally succeeding in a quest to make it to the majors. Class AAA is the closest level to becoming a big leaguer. The stepladder ascends from Rookie League and Short-Season Class A (SS) up to Class A, Class A-Advanced and Class AA to, finally, Class AAA. But what really got us scratching our heads as we looked over the more than 200 teams were the names, which range from fun to classy to downright weird. So, naturally, we couldn’t help but start picking favorites. And then it was born — a top 20 list of minor league team names (as well as their affiliates). And yes, the Richmond, Va., Flying Squirrels just barely missed the cut.
|20. Reno Aces (Reno, Nev.; Class AAA, Arizona Diamondbacks). Shuffle up and deal.|
19. San Antonio Missions (San Antonio; Class AA, San Diego Padres). Can’t forget that Alamo.
18. Augusta GreenJackets (Augusta, Ga.;Class A, San Francisco Giants). Local golf links.
17. Portland Sea Dogs (Portland, Maine; Class AA, Boston Red Sox). A wet pup smells, but it’s cute.
16. Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Allentown, Pa.; Class AAA, Philadelphia Phillies). As in pig iron.
15. Idaho Falls Chukars (Idaho Falls, Idaho; Rookie, Kansas City Royals). A real game bird.
14. Albuquerque Isotopes (Albuquerque, N.M.; Class AAA, Los Angeles Dodgers). There’s no musical called Darn Isotopes, but hey, it’s unique.
13. Tulsa Drillers (Tulsa, Okla.; Class AA, Colorado Rockies). Three oil strikes and you’re safe.
12. Savannah Sand Gnats (Savannah, Ga.;Class A, New York Mets). Not to be confused with the Today show co-host.
11. Omaha Storm Chasers (Omaha, Neb.;Class AAA, Royals). Their games aren’t on The Weather Channel.
|10. Lansing Lugnuts (Lansing, Mich.; Class A, Toronto Blue Jays). A wheel fine name.|
9. Cedar Rapids Kernels (Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Class A, Minnesota Twins). Appropriately corny.
8. Hickory Crawdads (Hickory, N.C.; Class A, Texas Rangers). Go, crawdaddy.
7. Beloit Snappers (Beloit, Wis.; Class A, Oakland A’s). Town once known for its affinity for turtles.
6. Kannapolis Intimidators (Kannapolis, N.C.; Class A, Chicago White Sox). Took part-owner Dale Earnhardt’s nickname.
5. Arkansas Travelers (Little Rock, Ark.; Class AA, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). From an old folk tune.
4. Nashville Sounds (Nashville, Tenn.; Class AAA, Milwaukee Brewers). As self-explanatory as it gets.
3. Chattanooga Lookouts (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Class AA, Dodgers). A nod to Lookout Mountain.
2. Asheville Tourists (Asheville, N.C.; Class A, Rockies). In the same park since 1924.
1. Toledo Mud Hens (Toledo, Ohio; Class AAA, Detroit Tigers). One of the oldest and best.