Jean-Pierre Allard was at The Zip -- as Ottawa's ballpark has been dubbed -- and would to ask people to give the owners and the new Rapidz name a chance.
I'll bet you all the money you spent on the Ottawa Senators last spring that never in your wildest dreams could you have imagined how rapidly the new Ottawa Rapids baseball team could move outside the base paths.
At today’s press conference at Ottawa Stadium, members of the media were introduced to the new owners, Rick Anderson and Rob Hall, local entrepreneurs of Canada’s largest online video rental company Zip.ca. They verified that they have changed the spelling of the team’s name to RAPIDZ while introducing a new red logo (pictured), replete with the maple leaf and the standard run-off banner carrying the moniker under the city’s name.
It is rather uncanny that the idea of Messrs. Anderson and Hall stepping up to the plate and swinging a deal to purchase Ottawa’s baseball club from Can-Am League commissioner Miles Wolff was pitched to them while they were attending a Senators game at Scotiabank Place last month. Like I was saying, the Rapids can, indeed, move rapidly.
You are are forgiven for thinking you've seen this movie before in Ottawa, after stumbling across your original Senators’ jersey with the infamous Peace Tower logo, or your ticket stub to the inaugural game at the short-lived Palladium Centre in your basement collection. (Not to mention your Roughriders T-shirt with the flaming-R logo from the early '90s.)
Most will undoubtedly recall that Rapids/Rapides was drawn from a fan contest and chosen to commemorate the area's rich history with the lumber industry and its river and rapids. Fans are well within their rights to be a tad skeptical and not welcome this change with open minds.
After mulling over this change for the past two days, I think it would be best to look at it, not so much at what is lost from not having a bilingual moniker, but much more at what stands to be gained from having a language-neutral one.
Anderson and Hall's reasoning is that it will be simpler to have one team name while it will also be easier for all to identify with. It might also avoid any situation in which fans, especially the young ones, mistakenly come home with the wrong memorabilia.
Naturally, the financial implications of carrying one moniker and one logo make perfect sense, lest we forget that this sport is a business.
Today’s conference made it clear that this should not be viewed as a slight to the large and tradition-laden Outaouais baseball fans. Au contraire. The Rapidz' message delivered at its inaugural press conference on Valentine's Day to the effect that it will not ignore "l'aspect francophone" of the Ottawa-Gatineau market remains as strong today as it was two months ago. Only the ownership has changed.
And hey, while phonetically speaking, Rapidz in French is not quite Rapides, can anyone seriously tell me that they won't be able to pronounce the name in French?
Remember that the the Montreal Expos had one name, not two, and they played in a predominantly French market while nary a complaint from the language police was ever heard.
The bottom line is that while many were all busy getting caught in semantics and politics, baseball fans nearly forgot to rejoice in the tremendous news from this story. The Rapidz are now owned by two young, bright and successful entrepreneurs who are huge baseball fans and who are committed to making this latest baseball opportunity a winning and sustainable venture.
I came away with the sense that the new owners are about to explore new and innovative approaches toward promoting ball here in the region. Already, Hall has stated that one of his priorities will be to ensure that families will have healthy menu items to choose from at the concession stands outside of the traditional ballpark fare.
When I jokingly asked Mr. Anderson if he had given any thought to promoting the DVDs Eight Men Out and Bull Durham, both baseball movies celebrating their 20th anniversary this season, he replied quickly that it was an interesting idea.
I also surreptitiously asked if there was any truth to the rumours that Zip.ca customers would now be given the option of bringing their DVD rentals back to the stadium instead of mailing them. To which Mr. Anderson could only offer a warm smile.
Not sure his firm would want to cut into Canada Post's profit margin at this point in time.
(UPDATE: The UORB has some thoughts on the Rapidz transition that should be read for posterity's sake. )