The Double-A Midland RockHounds unveiled sweeping updates to their identity today, including a new, more serious Rocky the RockHound and a handful of new logos to expand their suite of marks. The update is the first in almost a quarter-century since the team became the RockHounds.
The new look replaces one that the team had used since 1999 (above), which featured a rough-and-tumble cartoon Rocky and a typographic aesthetic that can best be described as Jurassic Park meets the Flintstones.
“What we were looking to do was to have something that was not only a little different, but more professional,” said the team’s Assistant General Manager Jeff VonHolle. “I think that logo that we’ve had for 23 years obviously, has served us really well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, necessarily—that didn’t have anything to do with us making the decision that we made to do something different in 2022, but it is a more professional look.”
While the previous mark was a bit dated, and was perhaps somewhat cumbersome to reproduce in certain formats because it contained a lot of detail and different colors, Rocky the mascot and the RockHounds nickname were never in any jeopardy.
“It was never on the table to either change the name of the team or change the mascot,” VonHolle said. “We wanted to modernize the look of the RockHounds.”
The team turned to the Texas-based firm Torch Creative for the new look.
“When we went into this, one of the things we wanted was to make it feel as professional as possible while retaining a minor league baseball aesthetic,” said Brad Bishop, one of the firm’s two partners.
“We wanted to pay homage to what they had,” added fellow Torch partner Mike Thurman. “Rocky is very well beloved out there, so clearly we wanted to keep him front and center. We wanted him to be fun and inviting. We wanted the suite to be fun, but also very nuanced. We wanted to find that balance.”
The result is a suite of logos that is more expansive than what the team had before, with several iterations of Rocky and a few entirely new alternate logos. The new identity features a more refined, with a well-defined color palette and a clean custom typeface.
Rocky is represented in three formats: from the waist up, just the head, and for the first time, a full body.
“We were certainly excited that they liked the full body,” Bishop said. “Rocky’s head is a little more than an update of what they had. We did a lot of work on it, trying to balance out proportions, but still when you look at it you know it’s the original Rocky.”
The new set of marks includes a handful of alternate logos, including a baseball wearing Rocky’s helmet, a dog’s paw print made of oil drops, and letter M formed by two rock hammers.
“In the oil fields in West Texas, there was all kinds of iconography we could explore with,” Bishop said.
One particular icon of the oil industry featured in the RockHounds’ cap logo gets at the very heart of the team’s identity.
“What’s a rock hound? It’s a geologist who searches for oil,” VonHolle said. “What does a rock hound do? You Google what are the tools that a rock hound uses., the first thing that comes up is a rock hammer.”
With that in mind, the designers developed a rock hammer image, which they duplicated and manipulated to form the letter M, giving the team a distinctive image-as-type logo.
“We really wanted to give them a very unique M that we hadn’t seen out there,” Thurman said. “We had regular hammers that we were messing around with to see if we could make a letterform out of it and they came together pretty nicely.”
“We all love the fact that we have now an image of the letter M that nobody has,” VonHolle said. “We wanted something that was unique. Unique—something that nobody has, something that is very identifiable to Midland, and to the Permian Basin, and to all of West Texas. I think we were able to achieve that with the two rock hammers that come together to form the letter M.”
Another alternate logo is a hyper-local twist on a common theme.
“A lot of teams have paw print logos,” VonHolle said, “but I think this one is able to do a great thing in that it’s able to combine not only a paw print, of our mascot, of our dog Rocky, but it’s also able to incorporate oil into it as well.”
Other details in the logos play into the larger theme of telling the story of the oil industry in Midland. A dog tag on the primary logo is shaped like a drop of oil, Rocky’s bat is a rock hammer, and the primary logo features five stars for five decades since the franchise was founded as the Midland Cubs in 1972.
Most importantly, though, is the overall aesthetic of the brand, which bucks the recent trend in minor league baseball by going more serious and less outlandish.
“The cleaner, more professional it looks and feels, then I think it reflects on the team as well,” Bishop said.
“We understand that there are some trends going on in minor league baseball,” Thurman added. “We appreciate certain aspects of those trends, but we didn’t want to follow those trends. We wanted to create something that was a little more, hopefully, timeless. If we’ve done our job correctly, these marks are going to be around a long time, and when these trends are over, the RockHounds will still be standing.”
The new-look RockHounds will make their on-field debut when their 2022 season begins against the Amarillo Sod Poodles April 8.