The short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds have a new logo, a sleek, more fearsome-looking bird to accompany the club's 12th season in the New York-Penn League as an Orioles affiliate.
Gone is the smiling cartoon jet logo that had been a constant since Ripken Baseball founded the club in 2002. In its place is a much more serious avian emissary with a link to "Iron Man" - the Robert Downey Jr. film franchise, not the moniker bestowed on Cal Ripken Jr. for his consecutive-games prowess.
Bill Ripken, executive vice president of Ripken Baseball, took time out from Monday's media blitz announcing the logo launch to explain what went into the creation of the decidedly more imposing trademark. He explained that after the IronBirds passed their 10-year anniversary season in 2011, he and Cal started thinking of rebranding the team's primary logo.
"When we started the IronBirds 11 years ago, ... we threw together something that was very friendly looking," Bill explained.
The process of coming up with a new design took more than six months and started with Bill's assertion that the IronBirds needed something more serious. He thought about the angry bat-wielding Oriole Bird that debuted in 19678 and has become a favorite of Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and wanted to meld that notion with something sleek and metallic-looking, right out of "Iron Man" (the fact that his record-setting brother had a similar nickname was merely serendipity).
The Ripkens worked with IronBids general manager Aaron Moszer and Studio Simon, the brand identity specialists who helped Ripken Baseball develop logos for its other minor league clubs, the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs and Augusta GreenJackets.
"I didn't want friendly," Bill said. "I wanted menacing and aggressive."
And that's exactly what he got. (Though Monday was the official launch of the new logo, Ripken gave viewers on MLB Network's "Hot Stove" a sneak peek last Tuesday.)
The result was what Bill calls "a metal-looking" bird. The primary logo features an orange-beaked silver bird, its wings spread as if taking flight, propelled by fiery plumes that cradle the word "IronBirds" above bared talons. The word "Aberdeen" - in orange block letters - rings the bird in a half-circle. The secondary logo, which will primarily be used on caps, offers the silver bird's head, replete with orange beak and eyes, with the right side of the creature's face shaded in black and blue.
"We've launched a new era for IronBirds baseball and the new logo is the first step," Bill said. "It's different and definitely edgy enough to compete in minor league baseball."
The new logos will make their national merchandising debuts at next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. Though long known as the site of major league general managers' trade discussions and a frenzy over the winter's free agents, the event is actually a get-together for baseball's minor leagues, hosted each December by one minor league club.
"This logo represents a new era of IronBirds baseball in Aberdeen," said Cal, founder of Ripken Baseball, in a statement. "We have a lot of exciting plans for 2013, while continuing to remain true to our core mission of creating memorable experiences in and around the game of baseball."
Hats and t-shirts are now available here, just in time for holiday gift-giving.