More than a century and a quarter before the world was introduced to the Round Rock Express baseball team, Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, the International and Great Northern Railroad brought trains to Round Rock, Texas. The railroad industry changed the face of the city forever.
According to the city’s website, “Round Rock can claim that the most significant event in its history was the coming of the railroad in 1876. This event precipitated the relocation of the town’s central business district and changed Round Rock forever.”
So it stands to reason that the town’s baseball team would feature a train in its logo. In fact, the train is such a prominent part of the Express’s identity, it sometimes causes confusion.
“People who are new in town,” said Jill Cacic, the team’s Vice President of Public Relations and Communications, “they may see the Round Rock Express and think we’re a newspaper or a train company or a transportation company or something like that.”
To help spread the word that they’re a baseball team and not some other company, the team rewards fans for wearing Express gear when they’re out and about on the town. “We have an initiative locally where if you’re caught wearing Express gear in public … it’s good for two free tickets to a future game,” Cacic said.
By now, though, there shouldn’t be too much confusion over who the Express are. They’ve been around since 2005, moving to Texas from Canada after playing as the Edmonton Trappers from 1981 to 2004. (It was a bad time for baseball in Canada, as the Trappers were an Expos affiliate, but that changed after 2004, when both teams left for cities to the south.) The Trappers were purchased in 2003 by the RSR Sports group, which purchased the team with the intention of moving it to Round Rock. RSR Sports is named for its principals, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, business person Don Sanders, and Nolan’s son Reid Ryan.
The fact that the team is partially owned by one of the biggest names in baseball history, and that his nickname from his playing days sounds an awful lot like something to do with trains is a lucky coincidence—and one the team would have been crazy to ignore when naming the team.
“The name comes from Nolan Ryan, who is one of our principal owners and he was the Ryan Express when he was playing,” Cacic said. “There’s also a train that runs right by the stadium, so it was a natural fit.”
Being that the Express play in Texas, where Nolan Ryan played roughly half of his 27-year career with the Astros and the Rangers, you can forgive Round Rock Express spokespeople for making bold claims about their owner.
“We have the luxury of having, you know, the greatest pitcher in all of baseball to be one of our owners,” Cacic continued, “so it’s something that’s easy to pull from.”
Indeed, Nolan Ryan holds Major League records with 5,714 career strikeouts and seven career no-hitters, plus his 383 strikeouts in 1973 is the most in a single season in the live ball era. But in terms of best pitcher ever, the likes of Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, and Dazzy Vance might raise their eyebrows at that claim. (Unresolvable baseball debate alert! Who’s the best pitcher in baseball history? While you’re at it, should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame and is the designated hitter good for the sport?)
The current logo, designed by Dan Simon of Studio Simon and adopted in 2011, prominently features a cow catcher and an eye-catching detail that combines baseball and trains.
“If you look at the primary logo, there’s a baseball,” Cacic said. “I always think of it as the light on the front of the train.”
The cow catcher and headlamp are particular of note for trains in Round Rock because of a unique feature of an early train to frequent the city. One of the first lines to run out of Round Rock was to nearby Georgetown, where there was nowhere for the train to turn around, so the train had to make the return trip backwards. According to The Railroads of Roundrock, “To facilitate this process, the ‘J.J. Dimmitt’ was outfitted with cow-catchers and headlamps on both ends.”
With a name that draws from baseball royalty and a logo that explores their hometown’s ties to the railroad industry, the Round Rock Express have a strong logo and two converging backstories that make it one of the more fun identities in the minors.