Baby Cakes buzz is already gone but bad nickname remains

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New Orleans Baby Cakes

The New Orleans Baby Cakes are now the minor league baseball team in the area, whether you like the name or not (File Photo: Parker Waters).

NEW ORLEANS — The Baby Cakes are back in town.

Somehow, that just doesn’t sound right. In fact, no statement that includes the new nickname of New Orleans’ professional baseball team sounds quite right.

Baby Cakes is a terrible nickname, plain and simple.

The franchise said the name choice was made in part because of how it fit with incorporating a Mardi Gras theme into the franchise’s rebranding, even though Baby Cakes has nothing to do with Mardi Gras, New Orleans or anything else on the planet Earth.

The Baby Cakes say there were more than 3,000 submissions of prospective names during the contest to choose a replacement for the Zephyrs last summer. Even allowing for duplicate submissions, that presumably means at least hundreds of other names were deemed worse than Baby Cakes.

That’s not possible.

I don’t know what a Baby Cake is. Yes, we eat king cakes during Mardi Gras and, yes, king cakes are noted for featuring a baby inside of them. But it’s called a king cake baby, not a baby cake.

Speaking of King Cakes, that was one of seven finalists in the naming contest. The others were Crawfish, Night Owls, Po’ Boys, Red Eyes and Tailgators.

At this point there’s no point in analyzing the other finalists, though surely all would have been better than Baby Cakes. What’s done is done.

The baseball brass decided that the franchise’s 25th season in New Orleans was a good time to for a rebranding. It’s not uncommon for sports franchises, especially those of the minor-league variety, to change nicknames and/or logos and colors.

New nicknames, logos and colors begat new merchandise, and fans, especially those with young children, can easily be enticed to buy merchandise with new nicknames, logos and colors on them. And the Baby Cakes’ merchandise sales have been brisker than the most recent sales of Zephyrs merchandise.

Of course the same likely would be true if the new merchandise were advertising the Po Boys, Tailgators or the Muffulettas, for that matter. The boost in sales didn’t require the selection of a silly-sounding name that has nothing to do with New Orleans.

It was pointed out during the selection process that Zephyrs, which was the name the franchise brought with it when it relocated from Denver, also had nothing to do with New Orleans because that name was chosen from a passenger train that traveled to and from Denver.

But locals embraced the name Zephyrs because The Zephyr was the name of a popular ride at Pontchartrain Beach. The fact that the coincidental connection to New Orleans might be lost on outsiders only enhanced its attractiveness.

Baby Cakes is just the opposite. New Orleanians don’t get it and the only people likely to think it has any connection to us would be outsiders with a confused understanding of Mardi Gras traditions.

So the Baby Cakes management got what it was looking for — a little offseason buzz about a franchise that struggles to generate any buzz and a short-term boost in merchandise sales.

But now the Baby Cakes are a reality and the season is under way. The buzz about the new nickname — which was almost entirely negative, by the way — has subsided. The boost in sales soon will subside as well.

Meanwhile, professional baseball players and coaches who are working hard every day to try and get to the Major Leagues are forced to do as Baby Cakes.

Thank goodness we still have a couple of nutria named Boudreaux and Clotile to maintain the team’s dignity.

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Les East

Les East

SportsNOLA/WHNO-TV/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renown freelance journalist. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

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