The wahoo is a fish that is strong, fierce, and delicious.
The fish featured in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ logo is the one that got away. You can tell by the hook in his mouth attached to the broken fishing line that he snapped through pure, brute force. “The wahoo is actually quite a fighter,” said Donna Kirby, the team’s director of promotions and community relations since its inception in 2012. “It’s a very, very strong fish out there in the Gulf.”
While the hook in the fish’s mouth is important symbolically, it’s often not the first thing fans notice. “A lot of people overlook the hook,” Kirby said, “The point of that hook is that he’s busted through it. He’s not being caught. That wahoo is strong and dominant and he’s busting off that hook.”
Of course, some actual wahoos out there in the Gulf aren’t so lucky. The wahoo is a popular fish among deep sea fishing charters in the Gulf—and yes, it is on the menu at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. “I kind of feel like it’s cannibalistic for me to even mention this,” Kirby said, “but when you’re filleting wahoo or when you’re grilling wahoo, it’s delicious. It is so good. It almost has a steak flavor to it.”
Given the popularity of the wahoo among sports fishermen and eaters of fish, it’s not surprising that the community relates to the team’s name. “We get people who send us pictures all the time of, hey I was out fishing this weekend and caught a wahoo,” Kirby said. “I always feel weird about it.”
The Blue Wahoos of the double-A Southern League are a Cincinnati affiliate—part of a colorful journey that Reds players take through the minor league system, which also includes red (Billings Mustangs), green (Dayton Dragons), orange (Bakersfield Blaze), and purple (Louisville Bats). The name Wahoos was suggested by a number of people in a name-the-team contest held through the Pensacola News Journal, but the team had concerns that the name would conflict legally with the University of Virginia, who are officially the Cavaliers but also go by the Wahoos.
“We thought, you know what,” Kirby said, “with all the water we’ve got around here, we’ve got such pretty skies usually, why don’t we tag blue on the front of that and call ourselves the Blue Wahoos?”
While blue is the team’s primary color, their accent color, known as rubine red by fans of the Pantone Matching System, has become increasingly prominent. After some initial hesitation about how hot pink would be received by players and fans, the team committed to its unique color scheme with a promotion called Pinko de Mayo in 2012, during which the team wore an alternate jersey in all pink.
“We put them on the guys and we thought, what are the players going to think of this? They ate it up,” Kirby said. “Every time they wore the pink jersey, the team won. So that became quickly, you’re never ever taking those jerseys off, right? Every Sunday, they wear those pink jerseys.”
Part of rubine red’s appeal is that it is unique. “You see so many typical colors across the board,” Kirby said. “They’re nice, we have nothing against those, but we wanted to have some sort of an accent color that makes it pop, and the pink really did the trick for us on that. It’s taken on a life of its own.”
I suggested to Donna that a solid rubine red plastic ice cream helmet would be well-received in the robust and growing helmet sundae collecting community (me and one other guy named Eric), and she responded enthusiastically. She reported later by email that the team’s concessions guy was receptive to the idea. I will keep SportsLogos.net readers apprised of this important development.
The Wahoos’ most popular secondary logo is one that the team refers to internally as “Clobber Fish,” whose show of strength is perhaps slightly less subtle than the primary logo’s snapped fishing line. (Before I spoke to Donna, I thought of this logo as Joe Pesci Fish.) Another popular secondary logo is the P-hook, a fishing hook bent to resemble the letter P. “Guys on the golf course love to have that on their polos,” Kirby said.
The Blue Wahoos’ mascot, Kazoo, was voted the Southern League’s most popular in last year’s “Mascot Mania” contest conducted by Minor League Baseball. Kazoo could not be reached for comment on how he feels walking around a stadium filled with people eating grilled wahoo.
Initially, there was some resistance to the announcement that a team would be relocating to the well-established city of Pensacola (“They say it’s America’s oldest city,” Kirby said.) But the team has made being a prominent and socially responsible member of the community a priority, and those initial misgivings have been overcome. The team was the Southern League’s nominee for the John Henry Moss community service award in 2013, and their Kazoo Cares Foundation supports local children interested in baseball.
One of the first moments when Kirby felt that the team was being accepted by the community came at a popular public event called Gallery Night when they unveiled the logo, which was designed by the prolific firm Brandiose, for the first time. “The crowd went wild. The crowd just immediately embraced it,” Kirby said. “I think that was a bonding moment.” (It also doesn’t hurt in terms of community buy-in that the team’s stadium was named 2013’s number one minor league ballpark and number 11 overall stadium experience in the USA and Canada by Stadium Journey.)
As with all successful identities, the Blue Wahoos make specific connections to their community and surrounding with the choice of a nickname and a strong logo design. In a cluttered and competitive minor league logo landscape, the Blue Wahoos stand out in large part because of a unique color palette. And also, let’s be honest, because their logo is just so darned delicious.