DES MOINES, Iowa — If you just cannot wait until Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020, then consider visiting here on Aug. 30, when Minor League Baseball’s Iowa Cubs rebrand themselves for the night as, yes, the Iowa Caucuses.
“I absolutely love it,” said David Redlawsk, chairman of the political science department at the University of Delaware and author of “Why Iowa?: How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process.”
“I will tell you, there is no question that the caucuses have become firmly lodged in pop culture, in a way that even 12, 16 years ago I never quite would have imagined,” added the former Iowa resident who moved to Iowa City for his sabbatical this year.
That certainly seems to be what the team is banking on.
“Iowa’s ‘first in the nation’ voting status is nationally recognized as an integral part of the election process, and that is a great source of pride for many Iowans,” the I-Cubs, the AAA Minor League Baseball affiliate of the iconic Chicago Cubs, announced on Aug. 7. Hence, the Memphis Redbirds — the AAA affiliate for the Chicago Cubs’ hated rival, the St. Louis Cardinals — will find themselves facing off at Principal Park against an eccentric and frequently misunderstood political process for recording candidate preferences for president every four years.
This is a thing in the minor leagues. Teams rename themselves periodically as a promotional gig, or to sell jerseys — or just generate some goodwill with the fans. The team wears different uniforms than normal and sells fan versions to ardent aficionados.
It is usually something along the lines of a regional food dish. So the Buffalo Bisons (AAA affiliate for the Toronto Blue Jays) periodically become the Buffalo Wings, complete with a cap that sports a chicken wing, blue cheese and piece of celery. It can be difficult to resist buying one of these in the team shop, speaking from experience.
“We’re in a social media era, and I think that has the impact it’s having on a lot of things. It’s more available to people. They can see more about it. And it gives great opportunities to market,” Redlawsk said.
This might be the only time this year the I-Cubs rename themselves after the official start of the presidential campaign. Minor league seasons typically end the weekend of Labor Day, and the end of the Cubs’ regular season is Sept. 2. The I-Cubs, though, are headed to the Pacific Coast League playoffs. They are first in their division, up comfortably over the Redbirds. So they have a shot at the title, and some potential dates to again roll out the Caucuses’ logo — an anthropomorphic state of Iowa with patriotic pinstripes holding up an outsized hand and index finger with “1st” emblazoned across the palm. One can dream.
Perhaps it can be a recurring thing even after the Feb. 3 caucuses. (The Iowa Cubs’ media folks did not get back to us on this, perhaps not wanting to promise too much to erstwhile political junkies/baseball fanatics.)
Overall, the intent is clear though: Breaking out the Caucuses is the I-Cubs’ bid to reel in the fans. To mangle the most famous quote from “Field of Dreams,” the Iowa baseball movie, “If you rename it, they will come.”