Eighty-five Minor League teams are currently participating in the Copa de la Diversión program, adopting colorful, folkloric identities as part of a larger effort to engage with the local Hispanic community. Food and drink-related alter egos are the most common Copa motif, but six teams have combined to form a
Eighty-five Minor League teams are currently participating in the Copa de la Diversión program, adopting colorful, folkloric identities as part of a larger effort to engage with the local Hispanic community. Food and drink-related alter egos are the most common Copa motif, but six teams have combined to form a perhaps less likely sub-genre.
Get in the ring, because it’s time to grapple with Copa’s lucha libre-themed teams. Lucha libre, the term for professional wrestling in Mexico, is a wildly popular form of the sport featuring high-flying mask-wearing combatants (luchadores). Thanks to Copa, the style and flair of lucha libre may be coming soon to a ballpark near you.
The lone lucha libre-themed team to debut in 2022 are the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Manzanas Luchadoras (Fighting Apples). It’s been a long time coming, as this identity was first unveiled prior to the 2020 season that didn’t occur. The High-A Padres affiliate then further delayed the Manzanas Luchadoras’ debut given the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-delayed 2021 campaign. On Aug. 5, they will finally take the field for the first time.
So how do you like them Fighting Apples? The Manzanas Luchadoras sport a light green and red color scheme, with the primary logo featuring an in-motion masked apple. This is a continuation of the San Diego affiliate's apple-based branding. Johnny Appleseed spent a good portion of his life in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area, and the TinCaps are named for Appleseed's iconic (albeit apocryphal) headwear.
Here are the Manzanas Luchadoras’ five tag-team partners:
Avocados Luchadores de Down East (Down East Wood Ducks)
2022 Copa dates: July 12-17
We will, we will, guac you! The Single-A Down East Wood Ducks, based in Kinston, N.C., will suit up as the Avocados Luchadores for six games in July. The avocado in question is, of course, wearing a luchador mask. He has also been cut in half, improbably enough, as his pit is part of the logo. The pit is a baseball, which also doubles as the “o” in avocados. It’s a very versatile avocado pit. Avocados Luchadores is the Rangers affiliate's second Copa identity. In 2019, they were simply known as the Patos Joyuyos (Wood Ducks).
Fenómenos Enmascarados del Valle de Hudson (Hudson Valley Renegades)
2022 Copa dates: May 27, June 12, July 31, Aug. 31
Hudson Valley’s Fenómenos Enmascarados – the Masked Phenoms – were announced in the fall of 2019 and made their on-field debut in 2021. The luchador in the logo, wearing a mask with “HV” incorporated into the design, is a raccoon. This raccoon just may be Rascal, the High-A Yankee affiliate’s longtime mascot. The Fenómenos Enmascarados will take the field four times this season, once a month starting in May. June 12 is “Puerto Rican Day,” while July 31 is dedicated to celebrating the Day of the Dead.
Luchadores de Reading (Reading Fightin Phils)
2022 Copa dates: 5/13, May 27, June 10, June 17, July 15, August 5, Aug. 19, Sept. 9
Reading, a city with a Hispanic population of 64 percent, went all in with its “Luchadores” identity and now suits up as such for nearly every Friday home game for the Phillies' Double-A affiliate. The Luchadores' mask-based primary logo is loaded with symbolism. The Reading Pagoda, a landmark local building, is embedded between the eyes. Twenty-three sun rays are fanned across the head, with each one representing a Latin American country (and Puerto Rico). The “h” and “d” in the wordmark also pay tribute to local architectural landmarks, while the “s” is topped with tuning pegs and resembles the strings of a guitar. In short: There’s a lot to unpack.
Ardillas Voladoras de Richmond (Richmond Flying Squirrels)
2022 Copa dates: April 29, May 5, June 10, July 8, July 29, Aug. 19
Nutzy, the Richmond Flying Squirrels' mascot, wears a cape and mask on a daily basis. So it was no stretch for him to assume a luchador alter ego when Double-A Richmond plays as the Ardillas Voladoras (a literal translation of Flying Squirrels). When the Flying Squirrels announced their Copa participation prior to the 2019 season, the Giants affiliate also introduced Nutzy’s lucha libre uniform. It’s a natural fit. Giveaway items are often part of the team’s Copa nights. This year, fans can get bandanas (April 29), pillowcases (June 10), tank tops (July 8) and fleece blankets (Aug. 19).
Sacramento Dorados (Sacramento River Cats)
2022 Copa dates: April 19, May 17, June 21, July 12, Aug. 16, Sept. 6
Dorados, which translates to “gold,” is an homage to Sacramento’s state capital status (California is the Golden State). The Dorados’ name is paired with luchador imagery; the Giants' Triple-A affiliate says this is because Sacramento’s diverse population “is always ready to step into the ring with flair and energy.” The River Cats will play as the Dorados on a monthly basis throughout the 2022 season. Stay gold.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.