When the Potomac Nationals, high-A affiliate of the nearby Washington Nationals, announced that they would be moving about 40 miles south to Fredericksburg, Virginia, for the 2020 season, there was an expectation that the franchise would be the latest in the parade of minor league teams with wacky nicknames. But after the team opened a public name-the-team contest and took suggestions for about a month this spring, there was a clear picture of fans’ desires.
“There’s just a tremendous following of the Nationals in the market,” said Seth Silber, one of the team’s owners, “and we really got the sense that this was what our fans wanted…. People take great pride in us being a Nationals affiliate and seeing our players get up to the big league club. We just thought it was the best way to serve what our fans really wanted.”
As the team announced moments ago, the erstwhile Potomac Nationals, or P-Nats, are now the Fredericksburg Nationals, or FredNats. That’s not to say there weren’t some other suggestions in the name-the-team contest, most notably from fans who wanted the team to call back to its pre-Nationals roots.
“Our team was formerly known as the Cannons before we switched to the Nationals,” Silber said, referring to the franchise’s days as the Prince William Cannons (1989–1998) and Potomac Cannons (1999–2004). “There was actually a decent number of people who wanted the Cannons name back. It ties in with our history, and ties in with the Revolutionary War and Civil War history in Fredericksburg.”
The centerpiece of the FredNats’ brand will look familiar to fans of the Big League club.
“The primary logo is very much based on the primary logo of the Washington Nationals,” said Dan Simon of Studio Simon, who created the logo.
That said, it was not necessarily a question of simply swapping a script W for a script F.
“With the Washington Nationals primary logo roundel, the real estate taken up by the script W is such that it nicely fills the circular area in the middle,” Simon said. “However, the script F in the Fredericksburg version of the roundel left uncomfortably empty negative spaces that made it so that letter looked like it just didn’t belong in the circular home it was being asked to inhabit.”
The solution to the issue was right under Simon’s nose the whole time:
“I keep a baseball—one that I actually caught at a game—directly in front of me at my desk, right below my computer monitor—and picked it up, spinning it around and around in my hand, trying to see if there was a way those laces could possibly fill those otherwise uneven negative spaces left by the script F. I took some photos of the ball turned this way and that, and, after a couple of swings and misses, finally hit upon one that did the trick. Using that photo as my guide, I then graphically rendered the laces so they would work as a simplified logo element.”
The script that will appear on the team’s jerseys also derives directly from the parent club’s brand.
“What we were asked to do was make an F that looked as if it were part of a font that was based on the Washington Nationals W,” Simon said. “When you talk about the FredNats, that lettering is based on, specifically, the Washington Nationals script lettering.”
The nickname FredNats, which will appear across front of the team’s jerseys, came about naturally, according to Silber.
“We just thought FredNats sums it up really well,” he said, “people taking pride in where we are, taking pride in being a Nationals affiliate. It pulls it all together really well. Once we started hearing that, it was just kind of obvious to us that that was the best way to express all of that…. Once you put it in script across a jersey, it just looks right.”
Of course, no minor league logo is complete without a fun connection to the local community. For the FredNats, that connection takes the form of George Washington swinging an axe (presumably the one he used to cut down that cherry tree he could not tell a lie about) like a baseball bat. The Washington family moved to Fredericksburg’s Ferry Farm when George was six years old, and the area is replete with the family’s history.
“Some of the legend of the chopping down of the cherry tree is tied into the area,” Silber said. “It all very well may be legend, but tying that in with the axe on the end of the bat pulls together a lot of things really well.”
Simon points out that it’s not just any representation of the nation’s first president, but one that specifically references a youthful, basebally George Washington.
“If you look at his clothing, as opposed to having him in either his general’s attire or what he might have worn when he was sitting in his president’s chair … he’s dressed like he would have been dressed if he were a little boy,” Simon said. “His clothing as he’s pictured there in this logo character art is based on what people assumed he would have worn as a child.”
And if it looks like George Washington is dressed to play baseball: “Baseball pants back in the early days, they were knickers,” Simon explained. “The pants he wore, he would have had to wear those high socks. He’s kind of already in a baseball-looking outfit because that’s what boys wore back then.”
The tie to the local community doesn’t end with George Washington. The FredNats’ suite of marks includes what the team is calling its cityscape logo, which features the Rappahannock River and surrounding foliage, the iconic RF&P Railroad Bridge, and a series of steeples emblematic of the town’s skyline.
“It was really important to us to do some type of more local logo that ties in the city,” Silber said. “We spent a lot of time working on that, and talking with city officials about the best way to represent the city.”
That sense of community ownership played heavily in Simon’s design process: “The reality is, even though this is an identity based on the parent club, this is Fredericksburg’s team and we wanted to bring Fredericksburg into it,” he said.
From my perspective, this new brand will satisfy traditionalists who resist the trend towards silliness in baseball branding, but also people like me who seek out the fun, local connection. When I travel to minor league baseball stadiums, I try to pick up a cap or a T-shirt. But as a Phillies fan, I likely would not wear anything from a team explicitly branded as the Nationals. I would definitely wear something with young George (or another character logo that is still to come, I’m told).
The FredNats will debut when the Carolina League’s season begins April 9, 2020.