You're leaving a small town with just a tire shop, gas station, and small restaurant that only serves burgers and soda. The highway is wide open in front of you and behind you. You feel the roar of a 350 horse power engine that only your right foot has control over. You take a deep breath, and let out a big smile as you leave a trail of dirt and gravel in your rear-view mirror.
That was the idea and theme behind the new logo for the Los Angeles Angels High-A affiliate, Inland Empire 66ers. The stadium that plays host to the 66ers (San Manuel Stadium), is located roughly two miles away from the actual route of Route 66, but is part of the heart where the yearly event called the Route 66 Rendezvous that takes place in San Bernardino, California, where thousands of car owners bring their "old toys" to for a cruise through the streets of the Inland Empire.
The Logo Release Party was located at the Hangar 24 Brewing Company located right next to the Redlands Airport in Redlands, California. The brewery was extravagant, as it actually was an old hangar used for airplanes. A cover band played the majority of the night, covering songs from Kings of Leon, Lynard Skynard, Jimi Hendrick Experience, and many more. As you walked to the entrance of the hangar, you were greeted by 66ers Front Office Staff at the front door who handed you a flashdrive with information you may need the next day about the logo, and a coupon for a free Hangar 24 beer.
After about half an hour of chit-chatting with fans, staff, and an Angels prospect from this past season's 66ers, the logo unveiling began. 66ers General Manager Joe Hudson talked to fans just prior to the the logo release and gave the fans an idea of the route the team was going with the new logo.
"We have truly created a new and exciting brand that focuses on the family fun entertainment that Minor League Baseball is all about. Our new identity symbolizes both a new era in an already historic franchise as well as an investment to our fans and community. This is a look that will appeal to all ages and will present a brand image that we feel all of our fans will love. Our fans can expect the same great entertainment, world class service and community focus that they love us for. We've simply reimagined our identity."
With that, the lights were darkened, and a four minute, thirty second video was played on television screens set up around the entire brewery. The video started with the words, "A look to our past," as "Baba O'Riley performed by The Who played. It went on the pictures of the San Bernardino Spirit (1988-1995), and Ken Griffey Jr. and Paul Konerko with their statistics, including one about Konerko having the one RBI in a 21-inning game, the longest shutout in California League History. It was followed with pictures of the San Bernardino Stampede (1996-2002), with statistics and pictures mostly of Adrian Beltre, Ted Lilly, and the old franchise mascot, "The Bug." The video continued on to the current day Inland Empire 66ers, with their now "old" logo. Felix Hernandez and Carlos Santana were the highlighted players of the 66ers past, and the crowd at the brewery cheered loudly as pictures and statistics of Kole Calhoun came on the screen, and became even louder as the beloved mascot, Bernie, showed up in the video.
The lead-in to the guitar solo of "Baba O'Riley" started and the song started to drain steadily, and the voice of the 66ers, Sam Farber became louder and louder. The video went in to the last out of the 2013 California League Championship, as Angels prospect, R.J. Alvarez sent a pitch hit to short by San Jose Giants Mitch Delfino. Eric Stamets came up with it and got the throw to first in time, and the brewery went in to an uproar as as Farber belted out his signature, "We Must Be In Heaven," on the TV, and the 66ers got to relive the Championship win that had occured just two months prior.
The song was coming to a close, and the words across the screen read, "And now, it's finally here... What you've all been waiting for... The future of the Inland Empire 66ers." The "old" 66ers logo appeared on the screen by itself and was suddenly crushed by a cartoon mechanic and his wrench, and the new logo appeared, and was followed by four others.
66ers fans went into a loud applause and smiles emerged, as a new Inland Empire 66ers logo was on the screen with orange and baby blue trim around a grey lettered full logo. A mechanic swinging a wrench like a bat with the baby blue ballcap and shirt was on the screen as well with an orange trim. In the middle was a "I.E" logo similar to the full Inland Empire logo. To top it all off, a wrench was spotted on the bottom right of the screen, with the same color pairings, and all the new logos were visable to the standing room only crowd.
Two other logos were shown later in the night. One an engine with orange trim and the baby blue as the main color. Also, a "66ers" with the sixes being winged.
Joe Hudson took the stage, and spoke to the crowd about the new logo.
"When we met with Brandiose (company who created the logo) we had them come out and tour the stadium and tour the community, as well as talk to our fans and talk to our sponsors. We talked about how we wanted a logo that really embraced the community and the Route 66 theme. We looked at a lot of logos and we really wanted a theoretically kid friendly, family friendly logo. That's where we came up with the mechanic character who's a very fun and interactive character. He's our main logo and we used baby blue and orange, it's a muscle car theme. We hope you love it as much as we do."
The response of fans seemed to be a satisfied and happy feeling for the new logos and their new mechanic. Many fans purchased the new ballcaps and t-shirts that were setup at the exit of the brewery. Two of the new hats were black with the bill being black as well, one having the mechanic and the other having the "IE" logo. A third cap was grey, black bill, and the engine logo centered on the front. A fourth and my personal favorite ballcap, was white on the brim, with baby blue surrounding the rest of the hat, including the bill, with the winged 66ers logo centered on the front.
As fans left the brewery, they were given a drinking glass with the full Inland Empire 66ers logo along with the mechanic on the front, and a Hangar 24 Brewery logo on the back.
It was a special night for the staff and fans of the Inland Empire 66ers. One that will be hard to forget. If you're ever in the area, stop by San Manuel Stadium and check out the new look of the Inland Empire 66ers. Also, stop by Hangar 24 Brewery if you get the chance, great staff and the beer is pretty darn good too.
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