Zorros de Somerset dart onto the Copa field
Many Copa de la Diversión identities make reference to a creature of folklore and a moment of significance for a team. In its first year in the program, Double-A Somerset managed to check both boxes. On Saturday, the Patriots took the field as Zorros de Somerset for the first time.
Many Copa de la Diversión identities make reference to a creature of folklore and a moment of significance for a team. In its first year in the program, Double-A Somerset managed to check both boxes.
On Saturday, the Patriots took the field as Zorros de Somerset for the first time. The mascot name, which is a direct translation of the word “fox,” was ultimately decided by the team’s marketing director, Hal Hansen, with the help of a committee of Hispanic community leaders, business owners and pastors, among others.
In Somerset, the Zorros legend began on a clear November day in 2020. It was the day that the Patriots, who had played in the independent Atlantic League since 1998, held a press conference at TD Bank Ballpark to announce they had reached a 10-year agreement to be a New York Yankees affiliate. It was a well-attended premier. Yankees legends Joe Torre, Sparky Lyle -- who also currently serves as Somerset's manager emeritus -- and Willie Randolph were on hand. But before the pageantry could begin, a fox emerged from the visitors dugout and sprinted across the outfield.
“During the pandemic, this fox had been making random appearances, mostly at night,” Hansen said. “I don't know that it was actually living inside the ballpark, but somewhere nearby it was definitely making itself home.”
The fox caught the attention of everyone at the ceremony, and a photographer on hand snapped an action shot for the local paper.
When it came time for the club to pick an identity for Copa, knowing they’d want to join the program, Hansen studied some of the previously existing identities. Teams like las Chupacabras in Round Rock and Vejigantes in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre truly stood out as creatures in Hispanic folklore. And Hansen kept coming back to the fox at the ceremony.
“This fox is essentially the guardian of this partnership,” Hansen said. “We're going to treat him like he is mysterious -- he's looking out for us and our partnership with the Yankees.”
Hansen brought the idea for the name before the group of Hispanic leaders, who got on board with the unique, personal identity that still leaves room for the true nature of Copa, which is to honor the culture and heritage.
Chaparro Copa Crushed #VamosZorros🦊 pic.twitter.com/Wc3al6hX7R— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) April 30, 2022
With the name finally selected, the club turned to the committee Hansen had formed to figure out the proper execution of their five Copa nights. Some members included current corporate partners that had long-established relationships with the club. But Hansen also sought out the minority business owners section of the local chamber of commerce and the community leaders that were recommended to them.
The team created a festive vibe throughout the ballpark with Latin music, with much of the playlist informed by the walk-up songs of past and current players. The concourse was also decorated with papier-mâché fox heads and papel picado tinsel, which is a traditional look at parties in Hispanic countries as elaborate designs are cut into sheets of tissue paper and spread out to be hung, much like Opening Day bunting. There was also a local Spanish restaurant on hand as a guest food vendor.
The first night of Copa was also the first night of a special project the team is working on with the fans at the game. The team set up tables with crayons and blank coasters for children to try and draw the many Zorros logos or some other baseball-related items. For the fifth and final Copa night in August, those coasters will be placed on a wall in the concourse as a mosaic with the goal of resembling traditional Mexican talavera tiles.
“We're building a community art project that I'm calling the kid's version of Spanish tiles,” Hansen said. “The kids were really into it. Every time I walked past a table there were three or four kids trying their best to draw a Zorros logo or a baseball. It's another way to get fans involved in the whole process.”
With the fans and local Hispanic community engaged, the club took their efforts a step further and made sure to get the Latino players and coaches on the team involved. For their game against Portland on Saturday, there were 12 Latinos in the home dugout, all of whom hailed from either the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. While the players were decked out in orange jerseys and pinstripe pants, they were also presented with the flag of their home country and gathered for a photo on the field.
“You saw how into it the players were when we did the flags and the whole presentation,” Hansen said. “It really just brought what Copa is supposed to be about -- community and understanding the different cultures.
“Sometimes when these guys play far from home it's probably nice to just have little reminders of what it's like at home and celebrate where they're from and the diversity that's in baseball.”
Somerset earned a 3-2 walk-off win over Portland that night after Saul Torres, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Until that point, the Zorros hadn’t scored since a two-run homer in the third inning off the bat of Andres Chaparro, a native of El Vigia, Venezuela.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.