|Richmond Flying Squirrels
Founded in 1972
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Eastern League (1983-present)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Current||San Francisco Giants (2003-present)|
|Minor league titles|
|Ballpark||The Diamond (2010-present)|
|General Manager||Todd Parnell|
The Richmond Flying Squirrels are a Minor League Baseball team based in Richmond, Virginia. The team, which is a part of the Eastern League, is the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants major league club, and plays at The Diamond. The Squirrels were previously known as the Connecticut Defenders.
The Flying Squirrels mark affiliated baseball's return to Richmond after a one-year absence prompted by the relocation of the former Triple-A International League's Richmond Braves to Lawrenceville, Georgia in 2009, where they are now called the Gwinnett Braves.
The Flying Squirrels began in 1972 as the West Haven Yankees, a farm club of the New York Yankees playing games at both Quigley Stadium and Yale Field in West Haven, Connecticut. They switched affiliations in 1980 to the Oakland Athletics and became the West Haven Whitecaps for one season before becoming the West Haven A's. In 1983, the team became the Albany A's when they moved to the Capital District of New York, playing at Heritage Park in Colonie. In 1985, the Yankees again became the team's parent club, replacing the A's, and prompting the minor-league team to become the Albany-Colonie Yankees, which they would remain until 1994.
On June 3, 1994, the Yankees announced they would move their franchise from Albany-Colonie to Norwich, Connecticut, and rename the team the Norwich Navigators. Property in Norwich was allotted for a new stadium on November 3, 1994, and the team played their season-opening game on April 6, 1995, with a win over the Bowie Baysox. The new stadium's opening game was 11 days later and ended again with a Navigators victory, this time over the Reading Phillies.
Norwich reached the Eastern League playoffs four times within the next six years, while many current and former New York Yankees were leading the team. On September 14, 2002, the Navigators won their first and only Eastern League championship with a five-game series victory at home over the Harrisburg Senators, under the direction of rookie manager Luis Sojo.
Within weeks, the Yankees announced that they were ending their affiliation with the Navigators to start a new team, the Trenton Thunder. Later that fall, the San Francisco Giants signed them as their new parent club for the 2003 season.
In 2005, the team was bought by boxing promoter Lou DiBella. With attendance figures declining, management announced an overhaul of the franchise's image and held a contest during the season allowing the public to select a new name. It was announced November 14, 2005, that the winning name was the Connecticut Defenders. The new mascot, a bald eagle, debuted eight days later. Another contest was held to name the mascot, and on February 11, 2006, the eagle was named "Cutter". The "Defenders" name and bald eagle mascot were both references to the United States Coast Guard Academy located nearby in New London, and Naval Submarine Base New London in nearby Groton.
In 2008, the San Francisco Giants renewed their PDC with the Defenders franchise until 2010. The following season, the Defenders won the Northern Division title, qualifying for the Eastern League playoffs. The Defenders defeated the New Britain Rock Cats three games to one in the ELDS, the second time making it to the Eastern League Championship Series in franchise history; however, the Defenders fell short in the end, this time losing three games to one against the Akron Aeros.
On September 23, 2009, it was announced that the Defenders would leave Norwich for their current home at The Diamond in Richmond, Virginia, where they will continue seeking proposals for a new ballpark in the Richmond metropolitan area. The team name was changed to the "Flying Squirrels".
The name the Richmond Flying Squirrels was chosen through a Richmond Times-Dispatch readers "name-the-team-contest," which ended on October 15, 2009. Other finalists were the Rock Hoppers, Hambones, Rhinos, Flatheads, and Hush Puppies. (The name Hambones was later ruled out of the contest after the city's uproar and the NAACP finding that "the Hambones" could be seen as a derogatory term directed towards the African-American community.)
The new Flying Squirrels logo was unveiled on December 1, 2009. It is a black, red, and grey flying squirrel with a patch in the shape of an "R" (for Richmond) on top of an acorn over its heart. The logo was designed by San Diego-based sports branding firm Brandiose. It was named the logo of the year by Ballpark Digest in 2010 and the best minor-league logo by Baseball America in 2015.
(Norwich & Connecticut: Place indicates finish in Northern Division, Richmond: Place indicates finish in Western Division)