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.
Theyâve 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.
âIn October, we started getting comments, âThis is him,ââ Millward said.
Comments about the Earnhardt-mascot likeness swelled again on Wednesday when the team unveiled the mascotâs name: Boomer.
Boomer, however, is not Dale Earnhardt, Millward told the Observer.
As the team previously said, however, the Cannon Ballers recognized Earnhardtâs legacy by including the No. 3 within the new âCBâ logo on hats. That was the number on Earnhardtâs race car.
âThe legendary NASCAR driver is also referenced, however obliquely, via the titular Cannon Ballersâ jumpsuit and bushy mustache, key aspects of the primary logo,â according to an article posted on Minor League Baseballâs website that was timed with last yearâs announcement.
The article quoted Dan Simon, the Louisville-based designer of the new logo, who said, âThe Cannon Baller, like Earnhardt and all NASCAR racers, âlays it on the line every time he goes out there.ââ
Boomerâs mustache? The team and Boomerâs Louisville-based designer, Dan Simon, considered six to eight styles and chose a âfluffy, free-flowingâ âstache, Millward told the Observer Thursday.
Boomerâs head? The Cannon Ballers wanted a âbaseball headâ 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 âour big, burly, mustachioed mascotâ who âhas the swagger of a home run king!â
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.
âCannons was the No. 1 suggestion we received (from the fans),â Millward said in a statement at the time. âWe really liked the name, but you canât do much with it. So we took it to the next level.â
Cannon Mills, founded in Kannapolis in 1888, was the cityâs largest employer until declaring bankruptcy in 2003, putting thousands out of work.
The buzz when the team first announced it wanted to change its name, however, was far from all good.
Earnhardtâs 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.
âI remember how proud Dad was of this,â Earnhardt tweeted last year when the team adopted the name to honor his father, a Kannapolis native known as âThe Intimidatorâ for his prowess on NASCAR tracks. âWhat a shame it has to end.â
In a letter to fans last year, the Intimidators explained why they were likely to replace the name: The team doesnât own âand therefore cannot confidently build around the Intimidator nameâ as it moves to the city of Kannapolisâs new Sports and Entertainment Venue in 2020, team officials wrote, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time.
Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardtâs widow, owns the Intimidator name, team official Vince Marcucci told NBC Sports last year.
Despite fansâ certainty that Boomer looks like Earnhardt and the teamâs 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.
âWe never could have expected (the response),â he said.
And a recent ribbon cutting ceremony for the teamâs 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.