The mayflies are dead. Long live the mayflies.
With a renovated Metro Bank Park set to open in 2010 on Harrisburg’s City Island, Harrisburg Senators officials foresaw an end to the stadium’s mayfly problem.
“Mayflies to meet end in Harrisburg,” proclaimed a January 2009 headline on the Minor League Baseball website. The accompanying story quoted Senators general manager Randy Whitaker.
“Whenever I talk to community groups about all of our upcoming improvements, I get the most applause when I mention the new roof,” he said. “Anywhere else, a stadium will have a roof because of heat or rain. But for us, it’s because of the mayflies.”
But mayflies don’t care about no stinkin’ roof. They keep coming, game after game, year after year, swarms of them attracted to the stadium’s bright lights and ultimately raining down on a suspecting public. They are the fly in the ointment – or on your hot dog or in your beer.
So if you can’t beat them, you might as well embrace them.
‘Party like mayflies’
In fact, the Senators “became” the Mayflies on April Fool’s Day, in a stunt that had the life-cycle of, well, a mayfly, which isn’t very long. The stunt would have been way cooler if it actually had been true.
I believed it for a little bit because I wanted to believe it – because I had suggested the name change in an email to Whitaker on March 27. The subject line read, “Embracing the mayfly.”
I asked whether the club had considered a change to Mayflies or Big Flies (kudos to blogger Mick Reinhard for the latter, which plays off the indigenous insects and the nickname for a home run).
I got my answer from Senators president Kevin Kulp, on April 1. He allowed that mayflies are “not quite the problem they had been in the past” (owing to the 2010 renovation, in which the mayfly-seducing light poles were moved farther from the seats).
“Over the years, we have dabbled in embracing the mayfly and have talked to numerous folks within our industry pushing us to embrace whatever is unique to us,” Kulp continued. “Mayflies are certainly that. This year, we are going almost all the way in on that concept.
“We have introduced a new mayfly batting practice cap and we are planning a special half inning ceremony every game this year where we ‘party like mayflies.’ We have created some unique animations to give them life and will really try to build a ‘hero’ out of the mayfly – that in subsequent years could lead to other things including but not limited to mascots, name change, etc.”
New names in Reading and Akron
A name change and new logo are a great way to reinvigorate a team, as two other Eastern League clubs have done recently. After decades as the Phillies, Reading in 2012 changed its name to the Fightin’ Phils as part of a rebranding aimed at increasing the team’s appeal to children.
This season, the Akron Aeros will take the field as the RubberDucks, an homage to hometown tire company Goodyear and a recognition that home attendance has fallen off a cliff in recent seasons.
The Senators have a rich tradition: Harrisburg has won six championships since baseball returned to City Island in 1987 but none since 1999 (the last of four consecutive titles). Even with a new stadium, the Senators’ per-game attendance has averaged no higher than seventh place in the Eastern League since 2010, falling to ninth in 2013.
To be fair, the Senators brand has come a long way since the 1990s, when the team’s on-field hats bore only a block H. Then came the introduction of “Uncle Slam,” a mascot with a frighteningly (particularly for kids) large head.
But let’s face it: In an era (and a region) in which anti-government sentiment runs high, it’s hard to sell a “senator.” (But much easier to buy one, ba-dum-bum.)
Harrisburg opens its 2014 home schedule on Thursday; it should be the team’s last season as the Senators.
The Mayflies are on deck.