Cleared for Takeoff: The Story Behind the Wichita Wingnuts – SportsLogos.Net News

Cleared for Takeoff: The Story Behind the Wichita Wingnuts


Wichita, the largest city in the state of Kansas, is inextricably tied to the aviation industry. During the 1900s, the city produced more airplanes than any other. Six aircraft manufacturers were founded in Wichita in the 1920s and 1930s, and the industry would be responsible for more jobs than any other in the state of Kansas. While aviation in Wichita shifts and changes with the times, it’s still a huge part of the culture and economy there.


So it stands to reason that the city’s independent minor league baseball team would take on a name related to aviation. The name includes the word “wings,” a pretty darned important part of a plane, and “nuts,” a pretty darned important part of baseball.

“It can be seen as the fans being nuts for their wings,” said Rob Low, the team’s Broadcasting & Media Relations Manager.


The whole “Nuts” thing is such a prevalent part of the team’s identity that they use just that word on some of their hats and jerseys…


…and they use it in tongue-in-cheek promotions, as with this “Nut Crusher” pick-up truck that is parked outside the stadium.


Another connection between the Wichita Wingnuts and the aviation industry is that wing nuts are hardware, and hardware is used to make airplanes. Though this is not a relationship you want to analyze too closely, as you’ll see below.

“It’s supposed to be a play on Wichita’s nickname as the air capital of the world,” Low said. “It’s sort of a tip of the cap to that, with wing nuts being a common piece of hardware for aircraft construction.”

I have never built an airplane myself, so being a vigilant journalist, I thought it would be worthwhile to confirm the role of wing nuts in aviation. I reached out to Brian Trosko, an instrumentation engineer with a major aircraft manufacturer.

“I’ve never seen a wing nut on an airplane,” he said. “Whole point of wing nuts is they’re easy to fasten/unfasten with just your fingers. That’s not what you look for in something that holds an airplane together.”

To give the team the benefit of the doubt, though, you could still argue that wing nuts are tangentially related to the industry. The document “Fasteners in the Aerospace Industry” by El Camino College in California—something I never thought I would read—states, “Wing nuts are commonly used on battery connections or hose clamps where proper tightness can be obtained by hand.”

So from my perspective at the bottom of this minor league baseball nickname rabbit hole, I say it’s legitimate to loosely connect (as it were!) wing nuts with aviation, and that’s good enough justification for a fun logo and nickname. That said, I hope no one’s using wing nuts to actually attached wings to airplanes.

Cox Clevlen

Of course, this connection between the Wingnuts nickname and the aviation industry is news to some—including the players wearing the uniforms. I attended a Wingnuts game recently, and spoke with two players on the team, infielder Zack Cox (left, above) and outfielder Brent Clevlen (right).

I asked Zack Cox, 2010 first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, in his first season with the team, why they were called the Wingnuts. He paused, then said, “I have no idea.” After thinking for a moment, he touched on two basic reasons any team chooses their nickname: creativity and alliteration. “It’s pretty unique to be called a Wingnut, and Wichita Wingnuts kind of flows pretty good.”

I turned to Brent Clevlen, who has been with the Wingnuts (among other teams) off and on since 2011. “To be honest, I have no idea why we’re called the Wingnuts.” Then, perhaps highlighting that it takes a special kind of nerd to care this much about the origin stories of minor league baseball nicknames, “I’ve never had anyone ask me about the name before.”


The Wingnuts had a tough act to follow when they debuted in 2008. They assumed the Wichita baseball mantle from another team with a red W logo, the Double-A Wichita Wranglers. The Wranglers played in the city from 1987 to 2007 as affiliates of the Padres and Royals, featuring the likes of Johnny Damon, Alex Gordon, and Andy Benes, before leaving to become the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.


The Wingnuts’ logo was created by Associated Advertising in Wichita, and it found immediate success when it was unveiled. In a bracket-style tournament conducted by CNBC in 2008, the Wingnuts were selected by tournament organizer and then-CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell (yes, that Darren Rovell) as one of the 64 best minor league baseball logos. They advanced through fan voting all the way to the championship match-up before finally losing to the Southern Illinois Miners.

“We were originally a 12-seed, if you will, and we got all the way to the final round,” Low said. “And this was before we had even taken the field for a game.”


The Wingnuts’ identity is pretty much exactly what you’d want from an independent minor league team. It has some bad-pun double entendres, it’s loosely related to an integral aspect of the local community, and it features a grimacing baseball logo with red stitching eyebrows. Now I just hope that the team will share this article around the clubhouse so the next time some really cool person at a trendy party wants to know why they’re called the Wingnuts, they’ll have an answer at the ready.