So Cool They Barely Need a Team: The Story Behind the Lake Elsinore Storm

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In 2001, the Lake Elsinore Storm, single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, took their unremarkable storm cloud logo and made a terrific decision: They scrapped most of it.

storm-oldBut they didn’t scrap all of it. They ditched the cloud and the breezy type and the lightning bolt and even the words “Professional Baseball Team,” but they kept one thing—the eyes—the eyes of the storm, as it were.

If brevity is the soul of narrative and a picture is worth a thousand words, then the Lake Elsinore Storm’s logo tells a powerful, soulful story. The Storm play in southern California, roughly an hour from San Diego and Los Angeles—a part of the country where it does not rain much—so the shift away from a literal storm cloud to a more figurative storm was appropriate.

“We don’t get a lot of weather other than sun and heat,” said the Storm’s director of media relations Eric Theiss. “It is warmer than most places and a little bit drier than most. When it comes to storms, people might chuckle about that.”

So why are they called the Storm? And what’s the thinking behind a spooky logo that looks like eyeballs in a haunted Scooby Doo painting that follow you while you walk? Well, start with the city of Lake Elsinore:

“Their logo here is Dream Extreme,” Theiss said. “They pride themselves on being this action sports capital of our country or of the world, and I think our logo kind of fits that bill of being a little more extreme logo.”

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Given that the city of Lake Elsinore is known for extreme sports like motocross and sky diving, the typical minor league baseball approach of appealing to families and children with adorable cartoon logos was not going to work.

stormthredz“It’s a little bit edgy and it’s a little bit dark,” Theiss said. “We pride ourselves on the edginess and the coolness of it. Our area is that kind of way. It’s that edgy motocross new age guy who is getting tattoos, and we kind of fit right in.” (Now that he mentions it, the Storm’s full logo pictured above has a kind-of tattoo-ish quality about it.)

The Storm’s logo is so edgy and cool that the team sells gear to people who have no idea that it’s connected to a baseball team. If you visit the team’s StormThredz store, it’s filled with the team’s brand, but no mention at all of any sort of team sport.

“Those guys who are motocross guys are not into baseball or football,” Theiss said. “They’re into bikes, and even they are the ones who say how cool our logo is.”

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The Storm’s edgy approach extends beyond their nickname and logo. The team pushes the limits with in-game promotions like its famous “Charlie Sheen-Co de Mayo” in 2011, which included a Charlie Sheen bobblehead, “Tiger Blood” cocktails, a taco-eating contest, and two-for-one Ho-Hos. The promotion garnered national attention and earned the team the Larry MacPhail Award for the top promotional effort in minor league baseball.

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ThunderThis focus on edginess probably explains why the Storm are the only team I’ve seen to host a World Fighting Championship (WFC) event, which they did earlier this month.

Though it does not explain why the Storm’s mascot is a lovable, kid-friendly green dog named Thunder. According to the team’s website, Thunder “has a beautiful coat of green fur and wears one of the world’s largest pair of shoes.” And, “As anyone can see he loves his food, just look at his belly.” Not exactly dark.

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Lake Elsinore’s uniform features the primary logo on the chest, and the famous eyes on the cap (and even the batting helmet). The team has stripped down its logo even further on social media, where their avatar is simply one eye against a red background. (Any graphic designer will tell you that this is basically cheating, as red and black logos almost always look good. To take an already-popular logo and go red and black with it is almost too easy.)

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The Storm are playing their 20th season in 2014 (even their 20th anniversary logo is cool), but as a brand, they didn’t really land on the map until the 2002 season. Their decision to ditch their storm cloud logo after the 2001 season in favor of a minimalist manifestation of an edgy attitude has paid huge dividends.

If the sport of baseball were to tragically disappear from our collective consciousness one day, the Storm are one of the few teams out there that could still exist and even thrive in that horrible dystopian future simply as a cool brand.