Audio: Welcome to your new reality, New Orleans
When I woke up and checked the news, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I had gone to bed the previous evening with an uneasy feeling, the sort of sweaty queasiness that only the foreboding uncertainty about one’s future can conjure. “It’s going to be okay,” I told myself as I tried to drift off to an uncomfortable night’s sleep. And when I arose, I stared at my screen in disbelief. This was really happening. This was the new reality. And there was nothing that I could do about it. I had to muster every ounce of inner strength I had just to say the words, to make them real, to accept that this was the truth.
“The New Orleans Zephyrs are now...the New Orleans Baby Cakes.”
That’s right: Baby Cakes. My beloved Z’s had gone from a cool, powerful wind to...I can barely even say it. “Baby Cakes.” And the more I say it, the sadder it sounds. What was I to do with this information? How could I possibly move forward in a post-Zephyrs America? My goodness, how could I even think of bringing a child into this world? Was I supposed to simply lie down and accept the fact that this was the new normal? That this wasn’t such a big deal? I mean, after all, this is just a minor league baseball team, right?
Wrong. I played ball from the age of five until I graduated high school at eighteen, and attended numerous camps offered by both Tulane and LSU baseball. I loved the game, and I always will. But we didn’t have a team in New Orleans growing up. My father had to fly us to Houston for me to see my first major league game. In between, while traveling to visit relatives, I’d catch the odd minor league game here and there, the Shreveport Captains, the Memphis Chicks, the Jackson Generals.
I adored minor league ball. I still do. There’s an intimacy and lightheartedness that you don’t get in the serious pennant races and big dollar contract wars of the bigs. So when the Zephyrs came to town in my teenage days, I was elated. Baseball! In New Orleans! And Zephyrs was a cool name, too. Some thought that the team’s moniker -- referring to a mountain wind -- didn’t make sense in the Crescent City, being that we have no mountains, but then others noted that the Zephyr was a popular roller coaster at Pontchartrain Park back in the day, so it did indeed have a Big Easy connection. The name stuck.
Baby Cakes. Ugh. There’s so much wrong with this name, it’s difficult to know where to begin, but I’ll try. First, I’m not the only one who’s pointing out that there is, in fact, no such thing as a baby cake in New Orleans. We have cakes. And we have babies. And some of our cakes, specifically king cakes, do traditionally have plastic babies in them. But no one, in the entire three hundred year history of the City of New Orleans, has ever referred to a king cake as a baby cake. Not once. Never. Because baby cakes don’t exist. They are not a thing. And yet, they are apparently now our baseball team. It boggles the mind. We don’t even know what a baby cake is, for Pete’s sake!
But let’s say, for the sake of argument and our own precarious sanity, that this refers to king cake babies. Okay, got it. This, however, is still a terrible name. What honest, self-respecting, hard-working professional baseball player trying to make it to the majors -- and our team is just one step away from the Florida Marlins -- wants to be called a baby? Or a baby cake? Can you imagine calling Ty Cobb or Ted Williams or Willie Mays or even John Kruk “baby cake?” “Baby cakes” is hardly going to strike fear in the hearts of our opponents. Our team name actually implies that our players are in diapers. It’s as though an eight year-old in California was asked what a good name for a New Orleans baseball team would be, and they just rolled with it. And for all we know, that’s exactly what happened.
Then, of course, there’s the mascot issue. My first worry was that we’d lose our precious Boudreaux T. Nutria, his wife Clotille, and their kids, but they turned up at the press conference to ease our worry. Which leaves us with...babies. I’m desperately hoping that they don’t resurrect the dreaded Pelicans king cake baby, which is soul-deep, terror-inducing pure nightmare fuel. Remember? As it stands, the baby in our new branding looks like the sibling of Chuckie from Child’s Play, or a Garbage Pail Kids version of Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Three centuries of history and culture, and now we’re represented by a menacing infant?
“Wait,” you say, “aren’t minor league teams supposed to have amusing names?” Traditionally, sure. There are loads of bizarre and hilarious minor league teams, including the Toledo Mud Hens, the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Savannah Bananas, Hartford Yard Goats, Montgomery Biscuits, Lansing Lugnuts, Akron Rubber Ducks, and, most recently, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. But I would take these over “Baby Cakes” any day. I would take anything over Baby Cakes. The New Orleans Potholes. The New Orleans boil water advisories. The New Orleans frozen daiquiris. The New Orleans bottlecap tap dancers. Seriously: ANYTHING.
I’m not alone here. Social media has been raging in recent days with the shock and disbelief of my fellow New Orleanians. “When did they let drunk me name a baseball team?” asked one. Another created the hashtag #notmybaseballteam, and suggested that we immediately protest in Lee Circle. This is not a bad idea. Because I’ll tell you what: I’m not just going to take this one lying down. We need to be active. I refuse to call my cherished New Orleans baseball team “baby cakes.” You will have to pry my Zephyrs caps and jerseys out of my cold dead hands.
So be ever stalwart, my fellow New Orleanians, and know that when the going gets tough in this town, the tough don’t settle for babies. And just remember:
At least we still have the Saints.
Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, Thrillist, Edible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.