The new regime had only one question to answer when it embarked on a logo facelift for the 12-year-old Augusta GreenJackets - does it need to be a bug?
After tinkering with the likes of orange-bearded leprechauns and assorted other imaginary mythic creatures, the answer came back a resounding yes.
"We threw everything on the table," said Jeff Eiseman, a Ripken Baseball vice president and the point man for the GreenJackets' logo project.
"It kept coming back to that insect."
The new ownership for Augusta's Class A South Atlantic League baseball franchise unveiled its new look for the GreenJackets on Wednesday at Wild Wing Cafe. Former major leaguer Bill Ripken made his first trip to Augusta to present the modernized stinging insect on behalf of the organization and his Ripken Baseball partner and brother, Cal Ripken Jr.
"The new marks and uniforms launch a new era in GreenJackets baseball," Bill Ripken said.
Based on the new logo, the future of the franchise looks stronger already. Gone is the skinny-legged, pink-winged, green- jacket-wearing wasp leaning on a bat and sucking on a piece of hay. The namesake green jacket is now sported by a more muscular, white-winged, orange-and-black bee with a bat slung over each"shoulder."
As a further nod to Augusta's golfing reputation, two golf clubs underline the Augusta GreenJackets - irons, of course, since Cal Ripken Jr. was baseball's iron man.
The logo was designed by Studio Simon, which has produced logos for Super Bowls, the Los Angeles Dodgers and numerous minor-league clubs. Its mission was to incorporate the green jacket associated with the Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club with some orange as a tip to the Ripkens' Orioles legacy and the club's San Francisco Giants affiliation.
The logo was designed to be a "little more fierce but not too scary for kids," Eiseman said. "Friendly but tough."
GreenJackets general manager Nick Brown was pleased to have a "more masculine" logo to market the franchise. He welcomed the touches of "Oriole" orange instead of the former pink "azalea" highlights.
"We felt it was time for modernization," Brown said. "Just a fresh, clean start."
The new logos - which included alternate "Bughead" and "GJ" logos to be sported on the team's caps - were well received by some of the GreenJackets' oldest and most loyal fans who attended the unveiling.
"Fantastic," said Dot Hobbs, the secretary of the GreenJackets' Diamond Club.
"It's like I expected - improvement, improvement, improvement," said 77-year-old Bessie Neal, who proudly hails herself as the only Augusta baseball fan who has "never missed a game in 18 years."
The GreenJackets are working on a name for their new mascot and will conduct a name-the-mascot contest in conjunction with The Augusta Chronicle.
The new logo, unveiled in time to take advantage of the holiday shopping season, was only the first visible piece of the franchise's facelift. Ripken Baseball has already spent money renovating the old Division of Motor Vehicles building adjacent to Lake Olmstead Stadium that houses the club's offices. In addition to new computers and office space, the full-time staff has been increased from three to 11 as they embark on a campaign to sell more tickets.
The GreenJackets also announced the launch of a revamped Web site (www.GreenJacketsbase ball.com) where fans can get ticket, schedule, merchandise and other information.
"We've crept into the 21st century," Brown said. "They've given us the resources to be successful. We've already sold more new ticket packages than in the last two seasons combined."
Before the GreenJackets' 140-game 2006 season begins in April, the Ripkens plan to completely rebuild Lake Olmstead Stadium's picnic area, trying to incorporate the group areas with the competitive essentials.
"It's a facility that needs a little love, but not too much," said Bill Ripken, who made his first site visit Wednesday. Cal Jr. made his first Augusta visit in September. "My brother and I are players and don't like to admit it, but in the minor leagues it's not what happens between the lines but outside the lines that matters."
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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