The finalists in the 2009 name-the-team contest for Richmond’s Double-A franchise weren’t big hits with the public. That’s exactly what Chuck Domino, the team’s chief executive, expected.

Among thousands of submissions, Flying Squirrels, Hush Puppies, Flatheads, Rhinos and Rock Hoppers survived the cut made by franchise ownership and management.

“We got a lot of names that made me yawn, a lot of names that would have been very popular,” said Domino. “We could have said ‘Rapids.’ We could have said ‘Rebels.’ We could have said ‘Virginians.’ But to me, totally boring. Not what we represent.” 

Many fans wanted something associated with Richmond. Domino didn’t object to that approach, but above all, he said the franchise sought a name that would “lend itself well to a logo, lend itself well to multiple mascots, be something that people are going to scratch their heads about. And something that would lend itself well to merchandise.” 

On Oct. 15, 2009, the team announced that its name would be the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the submission of Prince George County’s Brad Mead. He won two season tickets for life, a jacket and a cap. Regarding his suggestion of Flying Squirrels, Mead said he considered the trend toward odd nicknames among minor league teams and tried to come up with one that was “goofy or crazy.”

Domino on the day of the name announcement acknowledged that the choice of Flying Squirrels probably would not receive immediate approval from Richmond-area residents. 

“It’s going to be rough. We’re going to have to put on our seat belts,” he said. “But we promised Richmond that we were going to be different, and I think this makes a statement that we are going to be different.”

Gradually, “Flying Squirrels” was embraced as a fun, distinctive name by area residents. The franchise has regularly ranked among the top sellers of minor league merchandise.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com
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