Museum adds Chupacabras cap to collection

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Matt Rothenberg

For more than 100 years, the minor leagues have always been home to colorful team names, interesting logos, and intriguing promotions.

In 2018, they have combined all three into one.

After receiving positive feedback from a 2017 marketing initiative known as “It’s Fun to Be a Fan” (and its Spanish-language counterpart, “Es Divertido Ser Un Fan”), Minor League Baseball rolled out a new campaign this year called “Copa de la Diversión,” which loosely translates to “Fun Cup.”

With 33 teams, across all levels, participating in a total of 165 games throughout the season, the program aims to appeal to the diverse communities in each team’s market. According to Minor League Baseball’s press release, Copa de la Diversión is ”specifically designed to embrace the culture and values that resonate most” with each team’s community by creating “a culturally-relevant gameday experience through music, concessions and promotions.”

If the prospect of seeing your hometown team taking on a new, if temporary, identity is not appealing enough, Minor League Baseball is also unveiling a three-foot tall Copa de la Diversión trophy. According to MiLB, this “Gira de la Copa” (“Cup Tour”), will visit all 33 clubs and “build awareness and create excitement” for this series of games, although teams participating in the Copa will sometimes play teams who are not participating in the program.

The opening game was on April 8, between the Triple-A Pacific Coast League teams typically known as the Memphis (Tenn.) Redbirds and the host Round Rock (Texas) Express. Instead, the Round Rock Chupacabras hosted the Memphis Música.

Re-brandings varied from club to club. Some teams chose to simply translate their English-language name into Spanish (e.g. the Durham Bulls became Toros de Durham and the Salt Lake Bees became the Abejas), while some teams, such as the Lake Elsinore Storm and Kane County Cougars, chose to retain their current monikers. Others, like Round Rock and San Antonio, which will be known as the “Flying Chanclas” – flying footwear sometimes used by a family’s matriarch as a form of punishment – opted for something completely different.

Former Round Rock Express infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa donated the Chupacabras cap that he wore April 8 to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two days later, Kiner-Falefa was called up to the Texas Rangers. (Kelly Gavin/Texas Rangers)

The name of a mythological creature known for attacking and sucking the blood of livestock throughout the Americas, baseball fans will soon report sightings in Central New York, for the Chupacabras nickname and logo will have a home in Cooperstown.

Round Rock infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa generously donated his cap from the April 8 game to the Baseball Hall of Fame. On April 10, two days after the Copa game, Kiner-Falefa made his major league debut for Round Rock’s parent club, the Texas Rangers.

For the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Kiner-Falefa’s donation is just one of many examples of how the institution desires to acquire artifacts from a multitude of backgrounds, not just Major League Baseball-related, according to John Odell, the Hall’s curator of history and research.

“We’re extremely grateful for the cooperation we’ve received over the years from Major League Baseball, its Clubs, and its players,” Odell explained. “But we’re equally as thankful to those who support our mission beyond the major leagues. These artifacts shed light on – and capture – important moments of baseball history which otherwise might go unrecognized and possibly be forgotten.”

The Round Rock Express players sported these Chupacabras caps while playing the Memphis Redbirds in the opening game of the Gira de la Copa on April 8. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

You, too, can add a Chupacabras or a Flying Chanclas cap to your collection. Limited quantities of the caps are being sold by Minor League Baseball through its web store.

It may not be the historic interlocking NY of a traditional Yankees cap or the stylized B familiar to Red Sox fans, but there is no doubt the Chupacabras cap – and its story – will pique interest among baseball fans visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, where traditions new and old receive equal billing.

Matt Rothenberg is the manager of the Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
To the top

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series