When I first started toying with the idea of creating a custom cap, I didn’t think I would end up creating an entire hometown team to root for, much less a team history.
It only seemed appropriate after several collaboration sessions with Tony Losoya. His ideas for cap and jersey design were more than compelling enough for me to write them into the team’s uniform history (which you’ll read in the next article). What’s a uniform history without a team history? Weird, that’s what that is. What you’ll read below is a brief team history of the Salton Sea Birds.
Enjoy this fictional history of a fictional team!
A very realistic Salty.
The Salton Sea Birds were conceived in 1988 as a High-A (Advanced) affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Looking to seize a piece of the talented Mexican player pool coming through from the Mexican League and the Mexican Pacific League into the U.S., it only made sense to plant a franchise near a major border city (the sister cities of Calexico and Mexicali). Some questioned the move due to the fact that it is simply too hot during the summer to play baseball during the day. Locals turned out and showed enough support for the franchise to move ahead with stadium construction, granted that the heat and the sun were taken into consideration for the stadium’s layout.
The team's name serves as a preservative moniker; while once known as " The Riviera Of The Desert", the Salton Sea has fallen victim to pollution from excessive field runoff, drought and no natural replenishment. These factors have caused the sea to fall into a shell of its former glory. Still, the Salton Sea serves as a major stop for over 400 migrating bird species (hence, the Birds). Representing the "Birds" moniker, Salty the Pelican was ‘born’ alongside the team in 1988. Ivie the Cattle Egret joined the team in 2005 during the first Farmer’s Appreciation game. The duo of Salty and Ivie have been inseparable since. The two can be found at almost every Birds game; Salty usually holds down the fort during normal home games and Ivie appears during alternate and special events games. The duo can also be seen participating in numerous community events around the Imperial Valley.
The Salton Sea Birds jersey wordmark.
Though starting their inaugural season in 1988 with an 73-67 record, the team had an auspicious start, reaching the California League playoffs in only their second season of full play in 1989. The '89 squad lost to eventual runners-up in the Stockton Ports. The Birds would find success in eventual California League championship runs in 1992, 1994, 2006, and most recently in 2011. The Birds have enjoyed relative success in their young franchise history, boasting more winning seasons than they have lost (18-10) with a single-season best record of 92-48 (the championship season of 1994).
The Salton Sea Birds interlocking SS logo.
The Salton Sea Birds are famous for their night games, since practically every game the Birds play at their home stadium (Imperial Valley Stadium) in El Centro starts after 6 PM. Because it is normally too hot during the day in summertime (105 degrees plus) to engage in baseball activities, the Birds normally start their home games at 7 PM. Even still, the Birds average the highest game-time temps in the California League (99 degrees average). IV Stadium is uniquely built to keep spectators cool during games: the stands are positioned with spectators facing away from the setting desert sun and are covered overhead by very large shade awnings. Large fans hang from the awnings and maintain a light breeze in the stands to help dissipate heat. Mist dispensers situated within the awnings also provide a cooling mist for spectators in certain seating sections. The ballpark is also unique in having covered lawn seating in the outfield; any other type of seating would be subject to the heat of the setting sun and too hot to actually sit on. Spectators in the "Sun Run" lawn section regularly bring their own lawn chairs to catch Birds games while kids are free to roam and catch souvenirs sent past the fences.
The current uniform set of the Salton Sea Birds for 2016.
The Birds have used the heat of the Imperial Valley to their advantage before, most notably during their championship runs in 1992 and 1994 by scheduling their playoff and championship games played at home at earlier times (5:00 PM). By asking their fanbase to "show their feathers" and don white during the games in solidarity and to help deflect the sun, the Birds sweat out their opponents and brought home championships. In response to the tactic, the California League stepped in during the 1999 season and disallowed the Birds from scheduling any future games before 7:00 PM in any day the temperature rose above 100 degrees. The California League stated that the heat was "an abhorrent advantage, even for a team conditioned to play in the desert." Many scouts have noted the Birds produce hardier and better-conditioned baseball players, thanks in part to playing in some of the toughest conditions in all of baseball. Pitchers seem to thrive especially in the Birds system. One baseball executive scout noted that "the heat in that park either forces pitchers to become incredibly tough mentally or scrambles their brain to where all they can think about is pitching." The Padres have utilized these unique conditions and the relative vicinity of the team as an advantage by holding special workouts for rehabbing and lower-level players at the Birds complex. Many Padres pitchers have even made appearances at Birds games during rehab stints. Opponents visiting the Birds stadium are not only greeted by the heat but by a healthy Birds fanbase, making games on the road against the Salton Sea Birds some of the toughest in all of the California League.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this brief history of the Salton Sea Birds! I’m also happy to announce that the official Salton Sea Birds cap has been officially submitted to New Era and will be put into manufacturing soon. In the next episode, we’ll dive into the Salton Sea Birds uniform history, where you’ll get more than a sneak peek into the possible Salton Sea Birds caps of the future...