Thursday, 20 February 2020

That’s Dale, fans say, after Kannapolis unveils ‘Boomer’ baseball team mascot – Charlotte Observer

That’s Dale, fans say, after Kannapolis unveils ‘Boomer’ baseball team mascot – Charlotte Observer
19 Jan
Fans on social media are convinced the new mascot of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers looks like Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Fans on social media are convinced the new mascot of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers looks like Dale Earnhardt Sr. Jeff Siner, Observer file photo/Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Fans on social media are convinced the new mascot of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers minor league baseball team is the spitting image of hometown hero and late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr.

They’ve insisted so ever since the team posted photos of the mascot on social media several months ago, team general manager Matt Millward told The Charlotte Observer on Thursday.

“In October, we started getting comments, ‘This is him,’” Millward said.

Comments about the Earnhardt-mascot likeness swelled again on Wednesday when the team unveiled the mascot’s name: Boomer.

Boomer, however, is not Dale Earnhardt, Millward told the Observer.

The Kannapolis Cannon Ballers minor league baseball team unveiled their new mascot Boomer on Wednesday, and he resembles native son Dale Earnhardt, late great NASCAR driver. Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

As the team previously said, however, the Cannon Ballers recognized Earnhardt’s legacy by including the No. 3 within the new ‘CB’ logo on hats. That was the number on Earnhardt’s race car.

“The legendary NASCAR driver is also referenced, however obliquely, via the titular Cannon Ballers’ jumpsuit and bushy mustache, key aspects of the primary logo,” according to an article posted on Minor League Baseball’s website that was timed with last year’s announcement.

The article quoted Dan Simon, the Louisville-based designer of the new logo, who said, “The Cannon Baller, like Earnhardt and all NASCAR racers, ‘lays it on the line every time he goes out there.’”

Boomer’s mustache? The team and Boomer’s Louisville-based designer, Dan Simon, considered six to eight styles and chose a “fluffy, free-flowing” ‘stache, Millward told the Observer Thursday.

Boomer’s head? The Cannon Ballers wanted a “baseball head” similar to but not patterned after Mr. Met of the New York Mets and Mr. Red of the Cincinnati Reds, Millward told the Observer.

The Class A team also did not mention the late NASCAR driver in its mascot naming announcement, simply calling Boomer “our big, burly, mustachioed mascot” who “has the swagger of a home run king!”

Fans picked new team name

The Intimidators invited fans last year to nominate new names for the team on its website. The team received 1,223 submissions, according to the February letter to fans.

“Cannons was the No. 1 suggestion we received (from the fans),” Millward said in a statement at the time. “We really liked the name, but you can’t do much with it. So we took it to the next level.”

Cannon Mills, founded in Kannapolis in 1888, was the city’s largest employer until declaring bankruptcy in 2003, putting thousands out of work.

Intimidators name change

The buzz when the team first announced it wanted to change its name, however, was far from all good.

Earnhardt’s son, retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., joined many NASCAR fans in expressing dismay last year when the team decided to drop its Intimidators name, which honored his father.

Dale Earnhardt earned the nickname for his intimidating driving style on NASCAR Cup series tracks. He died in a single-car, last-lap wreck at the Daytona 500 in February 2001.

“I remember how proud Dad was of this,” Earnhardt tweeted last year when the team adopted the name to honor his father, a Kannapolis native known as “The Intimidator” for his prowess on NASCAR tracks. “What a shame it has to end.”

Dale Earnhart and Dale Jr..JPG
2/15/98 JEFF SINER/The Charlotte Observer Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) went out to make his father (right) proud in the February 1998 NAPA 300. Earnhardt’s racing was impressive, but an error in the pits and a spectacular crash left him in 37th place. JEFF SINER

In a letter to fans last year, the Intimidators explained why they were likely to replace the name: The team doesn’t own “and therefore cannot confidently build around the Intimidator name” as it moves to the city of Kannapolis’s new Sports and Entertainment Venue in 2020, team officials wrote, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time.

Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt’s widow, owns the Intimidator name, team official Vince Marcucci told NBC Sports last year.

Boomer’s reception

Despite fans’ certainty that Boomer looks like Earnhardt and the team’s adamant stance he does not, the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers have enjoyed marketing success with all the changes in recent months, Millward says.

Even before naming their mascot, the team created so much buzz that orders for team merchandise flowed in from all 50 states last fall, Millward said.

“We never could have expected (the response),” he said.

And a recent ribbon cutting ceremony for the team’s new home, the Kannapolis Sports & Entertainment Venue, drew a couple of hundred visitors, Millward said. The Cannon Ballers open there with home games starting in April.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.



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