Since 1998, the short season Single-A Batavia Muckdogs have been represented by a snarling menace whose roots look like they should trace back to the toughest of junkyards. The unapologetically fierce dog, bursting from between the slats of a wooden fence, belies the true (and pretty well obscured) origin of the team’s name—onions.
“Batavia is surrounded by a lot of farmland,” said Travis Sick, the team’s general manager. “It’s a big agricultural community, being in western New York.”
Okay, but how do we get from farmland to a muckdog? And just what is a muckdog anyway?
“There are what they call mucklands around our area,” Sick continued. “Mucklands are really fertile soil. It is dirt, but it’s very dark. It looks like mud. They call it the mucklands and they grow onions on it.”
In fact, the area is so well-known for onions that the tiny town of Elba nearby proclaims itself the Onion Capital of the World—a claim that takes some onions to make, since towns like Middleburg Heights, Ohio, and Vidalia, Georgia, have staked similar claims.
So we’re halfway there. We know the Muck part of the name, but what about the dogs?
“There are tall tales, I guess,” Sick said, “of feral dogs who lived out on the muck, hence the name Muckdogs…. It pays homage to the importance of agriculture, the agricultural industry not of Batavia but of Genesee County itself.”
Okay, but it seems like a long way to go, doesn’t it? If you want to pay homage to the area’s agriculture, why not be the Batavia Onion Farmers or something like that?
“It’s just a cool name, number one, Muckdogs. It’s fun to say,” Sick said. “Muckdogs sounds a lot cooler than the Batavia Onion Farmers or something like that.”
Muckdogs is one of those names that’s so hyperspecific that you have be from the area to know what it means. And sometimes that’s not even enough.
“Even people from around our area ask, what’s a muckdog?” Sick said. “Where does the name Muckdogs come from? It’s very unique and nobody really knows what a muckdog is.”
That said, the team’s logo resonates even if you don’t know what a muckdog is, or what the mucklands are, or that Elba is the Onion Capital of the World. The coolness of the name and the logo are reflected in their popularity not just in the area, but on ballfields scattered from coast to coast.
“There’s Muckdog teams literally all across the country,” Sick said. “We sell the majority of our merchandise outside of Batavia and Genesee County to Little League teams from California all the way up to Maine.”
Presumably, children who wear the Muckdogs identity engage their youthful curiosity and seek out the significance of the brand. Right?
“I would say that the majority do not know the exact meaning behind the name,” Sick said. “They just like the name itself.”
So the Muckdogs, a Miami Marlins affiliate, sort of achieved the best of both worlds. They have a brand that stands on its own without any explanation, and that people seem to like, as evidenced by the number of Little Leaguer Muckdogs there are. But the name has a unique nickname appropriate to the region where they play.
“It does have a specific tie to our community,” Sick summed up, “but it is also a good all-around name.”
So all that’s left now is to hope that the Muckdogs stick around so that we can keep enjoying their brand. The team is operated by the Rochester Red Wings, and has been officially for sale since 2011. Media reports had the team sold and moving at the end of this season, but Sick said that deal fell through.
“The goal is to keep the team here,” Sick said. “Professional baseball has been here since 1939 so it would be a shame for the community to lose its franchise.”
So for now, the world of minor league baseball logo fans gets to enjoy a brand that doesn’t need an explanation, but has a really good one.