Moon Shot: The Story Behind the Asheville Tourists

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For nearly 100 years, the minor league baseball team in Asheville, North Carolina, has gone by the name Tourists. If you’re familiar with the area, you know that tourism is a major industry in Asheville—with visitors coming for attractions like the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Biltmore Estate, all sorts of outdoorsy adventures, breweries, and, of course, the world-famous pinball museum. So it makes sense that the baseball team is called the Tourists, right?

“We’re a very tourist-driven town,” said the team’s president, Brian DeWine, “so everyone just assumes that is why we are the Asheville Tourists.” However, Asheville’s status as a tourist destination has nothing to do with the name of the local team. Rather, it was local writers who coined the name a century ago. “None of the players were from Asheville,” DeWine said, “so the local sportswriters and fans kind of said, ‘It’s just a bunch of tourists.’”

When the team undertook a major rebranding effort after the 2010 season, it was with a responsibility to respect a team name that dated back to 1914. Even though the origins of the team name are not necessarily common knowledge (“The casual fan may not know the history,” DeWine said), there’s still a strong attachment to the name in the community.

7obz7vvzfbrt1xkigrrehk7waSo with respect to the history of the name in Asheville, the team changed the logo but left the name as it was.

The decision to change the logo in 2010 was driven in large part by the fact that the logo at the time looked like it was designed by Bob “Happy Little Trees” Ross on a Mac Classic. “It was just an A with some mountains and trees going through it,” DeWine said. “It looked kind of like a cross between the Atlanta Braves logo and the Oakland A’s logo. It was just not very distinctive.”

The Tourists, A Rockies affiliate who just won the single-A South Atalntic League championship, based their new look on nighttime colors and a character called Mr. Moon. The colors all have a specific meaning to the local community, according to Mr. DeWine: “We nicknamed the colors midnight navy, Blue Ridge blue, for the mountains behind us, and Biltmore jade, for the Biltmore House, which actually has jade on top of it.” Also, something some fans are surprised to learn after they purchase souvenir caps and get them home, everything that is white on the logo glows in the dark.

According to DeWine, some fans had a specific complaint about the new colors: “I got emails within the first week or two saying, ‘You took the red out of  our logo and that was un-American. All baseball teams should be red, white, and blue.'” So the colors are relevant to Asheville, but what does the moon have to do with Asheville or tourists?

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gwpi7zce73cobgn6vtkyk5gmw“We joke, what is the ultimate tourist destination?” DeWine said. “Well, it’s the moon.”

But if you go way back in the team’s history, there’s a much more fun reason for the team’s connection to the moon. “In the late 1800s we were the Moonshiners,” DeWine said. “That’s where we got the moon from, to pay homage to that first team.”

Wherever the term came from, this particular moon wears sunglasses that reflect a baseball field and carries a hobo-style baseball bat, presumably with all of his worldly possessions contained in a bandanna pouch tied to the end.

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2vhen8918jsqv7q8vilq4afe8Early sketches from the designers at Brandiose show different renditions of Mr. Moon. They also show a grimacing bear, a throwback to the team’s logo from 1980 to 2004, who still appears as a mascot at the ballpark and on the occasional item at the souvenir stand.

The bear, named Teddy, continues to be a fan favorite. Even though Teddy had not officially been a part of the team’s logo for more than five years when the team rebranded, there was some trepidation about the fan reaction to the new look.

“There was definitely the sentiment, you killed Teddy,” DeWine said. However, “Teddy’s still a character at the ballpark. He’s at every game. He still does stuff in our community.”

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Another idea that appears in early sketches from Brandiose appears an anthropomorphized rack of ribs. “There’s a lot of good rib restaurants in Asheville,” DeWine said. “That was just one of their ideas.”

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vaeqdugdhtnqr19o00ia33espOne of the distinctive features of the Tourists’ identity is a unique letter A—certainly not one that will be confused with the Braves or A’s anymore. Brandiose tinkered with a number of designs, but the one they settled on has its roots in the region.

“Historically in Asheville, there are a lot of craftsman-style houses, and the thought was that kind of Crafstman-style look,” DeWine said. “Part of that was we really wanted our own A. We wanted our A to stand out, to be the Asheville Tourists’ A.”

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The Tourists’ wordmark can be traced back through the team’s history. According to DeWine, “You see that script Tourists, the Tourists written in cursive, if you look back in the history of Asheville, I would say over 100 year period, maybe 70 or 80 of the years, they’ve had that form of Tourists somewhere.”

1947 Tourists, via Bill Ballew's book, A History of Professional Baseball in Asheville
1947 Tourists, via Bill Ballew’s book, A History of Professional Baseball in Asheville

The Tourists have one of the more obscure nicknames in minor league baseball, to the point where even many local fans don’t know its origins (or worse, they think they do but are wrong). The team had an opportunity to dump their city’s longstanding team name in favor of some newfangled name that might have sold more merchandise, and it’s to their credit that they resisted. It’s a much more interesting story this way, and any mascot whose origins are rooted in a team called the Moonshiners has to be a good thing.