DICKSON CITY – All aboard!
If Wednesday night's renaming announcement is any indication, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Triple-A baseball franchise is on a fast track back into the hearts of Northeastern Pennsylvania fans.
And the rebirth of interest was jump-started by the team's new name.
Nobody seemed to be frowning about a team that'll now be known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
I love it, said Terri Agid of Peckville. It fits the area. I just think it's a great name.
She has a lot of company.
It's just perfect for the area, said Sean Herlihy, from Lake Ariel. With the rich history of railroads around this area, it fits perfectly.
That was the idea, said new Scranton/Wilkes-Barre general manager Rob Crain.
The franchise wanted a name that would return an identity back to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
This is our community, Crain said. (We wanted) to have a team name that symbolizes the area. No matter if you're a Red Sox fan, Mets, Phillies, it doesn't matter. We want you to be a RailRiders fan.
Plenty of those are sure to show up at the revamped PNC Field, if Wednesday was any indication.
Nearly 1,000 fans packed the ballroom at Genetti Manor to hear the Big Reveal – the revealing of the team's new nickname. That was about as many actual fans who attended the team's home games when the former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees were hovering near the bottom of the International League's attendance standings during the past two seasons the team played in Moosic.
There are so many people here, Crain said. It blew my wildest expectations.
Of course, the baseball franchise will remain the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, but with a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre touch.
That's important, said Lackawanna County commissioner Corey O'Brien, who in the past voiced concerns that the franchise lost touch with its fan base when it was known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Baseball is back, proclaimed O'Brien as he surveyed the boisterous ballroom. I think it's terrific. It's another step toward bringing this team back into the community.
It's not the only one.
In an obvious attempt to embrace Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's baseball past, team officials trotted out Greg Legg – a minor league hitting instructor in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system, and one of the original Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons in 1989.
It's kind of catchy, Legg said of the franchise's new name. You have the tie-in with our great state. It's Scranton-Wilkes-Barre's team. The fans can identify with it.
Mike Scavone could identify with the new name immediately.
The Scranton native and Forest City resident was one of the more than 25,000 fans who voted for the name RailRiders on a public ballot of six nicknames.
I think it was the best name of the whole group, Scavone said. I really think RailRiders, between Scranton and the state and railroads being here, was a good representation for the area.
I've been a ticket holder every year here, Scavone continued. I think it needs your own identity when you're in a minor league market. I would have been fine if they stayed the Red Barons. The main thing is, baseball will be back.
And it appears, so will the fans.
You could probably call it the ‘Mud Muffs' – once they see that (revamped) ballpark, they'll be there, predicted John Davies, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's public address announcer since baseball returned to the area in 1989.
I like it, Davies said of the name RailRiders. It identifies with the history of the area. And that was what I'd love to see it go back to. And it did. I think it's a big plus. A new identity, a new logo. For some people, it may take a little time to get used to. For others, it may not take much time at all.
No matter who they like in the big leagues, now they can all root for the local team without having any regrets.