Ranking the Best of the MiLB Copa de la Diversion

Last week, we were introduced to the 72 Spanish-language brands that Minor League Baseball will feature in its Copa de la Diversion this season. Now that we’ve had time to process what we’ve seen and break down what works and why, here are the seven best looks, nicknames, and identities. (I chose seven because that’s the top 10 percent.) I’m pulling from all 72 participating teams, including the 33 that participated last year and the original four from 2017 that served as the guinea pigs.

7. Alebrijes de Modesto (Modesto Nuts)
One of the things that makes the Copa brands so much fun is that most of them are festivals of color. The Modesto Nuts, playing as the Alebrijes de Modesto, certainly follow this mold—they’ll incorporate green, cyan, yellow, and magenta in their Alebrijes de Modesto Copa brand.

Many of the Copa identities also use mythological creatures from Hispanic cultures, but what makes Modesto’s stand out is the metaphor this creature represents. Alebrijes are brightly colored fantastical beasts whose origins date back to the 1930s, first created in papier maché by Pedro Linares. They have come to be seen (as in the movie Coco) as spirit animals, who in the context of a minor league baseball team, guide players through their journey to the Bigs.

The festive design and the deep cultural connection get the Nuts in at number seven. The Nuts will become the Alebrijes April 27, May 25, June 29, July 27, and August 31.

6. Reyes de Plata de Las Vegas (Las Vegas Aviators)
In 2017, the then–Las Vegas 51s took the biggest risk of the first four teams to participate in the Copa de la Diversion program—and garnered by far the biggest reaction of those four. While the Visalia Rawhide made the short leap from Rawhide to Toros (Bulls), the Charlotte Knights translated their name to Cabelleros, and the Kane County Cougars translated the definite article “the” to become Los Cougars, the 51s took on a completely unique brand, which they’ll trot back out for the third time this year.

The Reyes de Plata (Silver Kings) had a sharp logo back then, and have continued to refine it in their three seasons in the program. The nickname refers to the preponderance of silver in the area and the importance the Hispanic community has played in its mining. The inventive brand and attractive logo showed the path to success for future Copa brands.

In their first season as the Aviators, Las Vegas will play their third season as the Reyes de Plata May 7, May 21, June 4, July 2, July 23, July 30, August 20

5. Monarcas de Eugene (Eugene Emeralds)
Monarch butterflies are visually striking, and so they make a great logo. But their story is what makes them a great addition to the Copa program. They’re known for their semi-annual migrations that cover thousands of miles heading south from Canada to Mexico in the fall and then back in the spring.

When the Emeralds unveiled their Monarcas de Eugene brand before last season, they incorporated the Monarchs’ journey into their message: “The focus of the new brand revolves around the multi-national ethnicities that make up our Latino community. The Monarch butterfly performs one of the most spectacular journeys and has become a subtle and beautiful symbol for the migrant community.”

Visually, the logo is compelling, and it’s full of important symbolism. (See the graphic above.) But as a metaphor for the communities the team hopes to connect with, the concept is great, and that lands the Monarcas at number five in this ranking of the Copa de la Diversion.

We don’t know what dates the Ems will wear the Monarcas uniforms just yet, as their short-season Single-A season doesn’t begin until June and they still have time to figure it out.

4. Ardillas Voladoras de Richmond (Richmond Flying Squirrels)
Professional freestyle wrestling in Mexico—called lucha libre, or “free fight”—has a distinctive and instantly recognizable visual aesthetic. It involves oversized people with oversized personalities wearing outlandish masks.

In some cases, the luchador mask (which the Sacramento River Cats use in their Copa brand as well) is tied directly to the outcome of the wrestling match. Luchadores who lose their matches are required to permanently remove their mask in shame. Losing the battle means losing your identity—high stakes for any competition, whether it’s a wrestling match or a baseball game.

The Flying Squirrels’ take on incorporating the luchador mask into their Copa brand is particularly inventive. They’ll take their mascot/logo Nutzy, already a superhero-style character, and dress him in the luchador style. Tying their own existing brand to a distinctive and unique element of Hispanic culture in fun and creative way lands the Squirrels at number three on this list.

The Flying Squirrels will play at the Ardillas Voladoras de Richmond for all 11 of their Friday home games in 2019.

3. Murciélagos de Louisville (Louisville Bats)
Yes, the word murciélagos is a literal translation of Louisville’s team name, but it’s a pretty amazing word just on its own. That said, the Bats don’t make this list simply on the merits of lucking into a cool word when they translated their name.

What sets the Murciélagos apart is the visual aesthetic of their Copa brand. While it worked for most teams to go into a full, festive explosion of colors, the Bats adopted a style that emulates the artwork of ancient Mesoamerica. The bat depicted, presumably, is the Mayan death bat Camazotz, who is a total badass—associated with night, death, and sacrifice. In one myth, Camazotz kills an unfortunate soul who wanders into his lair and uses his head to play the Mayan ritual ballgame. Perfect for a sports mascot!

Los Murciélagos will play all three of their games during one series June 28-30.

2. Lowriders de Fresno (Fresno Grizzlies)
Look, the Fresno Grizzlies are good at this sort of thing, we know this already. The team that gave us the first and most successful temporary food-based nickname, the Tacos, Fresno is the first team in the Copa de la Diversion program to use an English-language word, albeit one that has clear ties to the Hispanic community.

Lowriders, customized vehicles equipped with hydraulics that allow the vehicle frame to be raised or lowered, were popularized in Los Angeles in the 1940s. The cars, which are to be driven “low and slow,” are brightly painted, often by Mexican-Americans making political or cultural statements. Leave it to the Grizzlies to find a way to tweak this system to make their promotional brand stand out above (nearly) all the rest.

The Grizzlies will play two sets of games as the Lowriders June 15-16 and July 27-28.

1. Mariachis de Nuevo México (Albuquerque Isotopes)
Still the king, the team that won Minor League Baseball’s “Fun Cup” with this brand and associated activities last year, as well as the 2018 Creamer Award for best promotional logo has added teal to the mix.

The name celebrates a traditional Mexican musical style and the logo features Catrin, the male version of Catrina, who was born as a protest symbol of social inequality in Mexico and who has come to represent the Day of the Dead.

The original Catrina, a skeleton dressed in the style of Mexican wealth, was etched in the early 1910s by Mexican printmaker and political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada. Now, the likeness of her male counterpart is featured on the still-best of the now 72 Copa de la Diversion brands.

The Mariachis play April 6, May 18, June 25, and July 19.