Tourists’ New Logo Seems Puzzling

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My grandmother is always on me to write about the Asheville Tourists.

She understands that we have the whole of the baseball universe to cover, but she doesn’t care. She wants to read about the Tourists. She has urged other relatives to harass me about it on Facebook. She has sent me clippings from the Asheville Citizen-Times on notable Tourists events, such as longtime Asheville skipper Joe Mikulik winning his 800th game as a manager this season.

She has lived in Asheville for the better part of her 93 years. I have spent nearly every Thanksgiving of my life, not to mention countless other days, at her house. In short, I know Asheville and I love Asheville. And now I have a reason to write about Asheville.

Sorry, though, it’s not good news. The Asheville Tourists have a new logo. And I hate it.

The Tourists unveiled their new “identity,” as you’re required to refer to it now, in November. It centers around a sunglasses-wearing character they call Mr. Moon—which as we know creates a strong association with Asheville, and Tourists, and baseball.

Actually, of course, it has an association to none of these things. I’ll grant that the team had nowhere to go but up after its last two logos—though the suitcase-carrying bear had some appeal during the over-the-top cartoonish minor league logo era—but this one leaves me feeling cold.

According to a release from the team, “The concept pays tribute to countless moonlit nights at McCormick Field, during which the Tourists have become part of the summer fabric for families throughout the Land of the Sky.”

Of course, all baseball teams that play at night also experience countless moonlit nights. How about something that ties to, oh I don’t know, your nickname? The Tourist nickname works well for the city because Asheville is a travel destination, and in the summer in particular the streets are filled with cars with Florida plates. So why not build on that?

The team tried to do it with some of its secondary logos, one of which shows Mr. Moon with a hobo rucksack, presumably visiting Asheville as a Tourist who has run out of money.

And of course who doesn’t remember the great times they spent in Asheville eating ribs with Mr. Moon? Yep, that’s one of the alternate logos too, perhaps to be used around the concession stands at McCormick Field.

The primary logo does feature mountains in the background with a night sky with the moon and stars, but again that plays more into the moon theme than evoking anything about the Blue Ridge Mountains.

New-Look Franchises

It’s the time of year when new logos are coming out, as minor league teams gear up for next year and try to grab a few local headlines during the offseason. Both the Lake County Captains (Midwest) and Kinston Indians (Carolina) introduced new looks in November, and for my money both do a better job of carrying out the mission of a minor league logo: something that looks different and occasionally offbeat, ties to the nickname and/or local area, and does not look ridiculous on a baseball uniform.

To be fair, it’s worth noting that not everyone in the Baseball America offices agrees with my opinions on these logos.

So in the case of Asheville in particular, it will interesting to see how the logo is received by the local fans, which ultimately is the most important—the only important?—arbiter of whether an, ahem, identity paradigm shift works.

The one person whose design eye I trust above all others, however, is our design and production director Sara Hiatt McDaniel. So as not to prejudice her, I simply handed her the two sheets featuring every aspect of the Tourists’ new identity and asked her to comment, being careful not to prejudice the jury.

Her first take was generally positive, which didn’t shock me because from a purely design standpoint I do appreciate the colors that went into the new look, some of the lettering and some of the iconography.

“It’s what minor league logos should be,” she said. “A little Americana, minimalist iconography, really nice lettering, and I like the really limited color palette. That script wordmark is awesome, too. I would totally wear a t-shirt with that on it.

“The only thing I don’t get is the moon. The lettering is vaguely arts and craftsy, which is nice. The stars are pretty. But yeah, that moon guy makes no sense.”

Which is the central building block for the entire identity. To me the entire logo package just seems like something that could have been tied to any minor league franchise in America. And maybe it’s just because Asheville holds a special place in my heart, but it’s an interesting place that lends itself to all kinds of different images. The moon is not one I would have ever thought of.

So now it’s up to the court of public opinion. I’ll be on my way up to Asheville on Thanksgiving again this year, so we’ll let Ama have the final word.