By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Chatham-Kent Barnstormers it is.
That the new moniker for CK’s up and coming Intercounty Baseball League team. The name, logo and colours were revealed Thursday to fans at Fergie Jenkins Park in Chatham.
Owner Dom Dinelle said the name was “carefully chosen” after lengthy consultation and research with a variety of organizations including the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society.
The exhaustive search for a new name came on the heels of a misstep earlier this year, when the name Chatham-Kent Blackbirds was selected from a community naming contest. At the time, officials had no idea the term was an affront to the Black community, as “blackbirds” is a pejorative slur relating to the slave trade.
Upon learning of the issue, the team quickly reversed its decision, and a Toronto-based sports marketing firm, The Hive, stepped up to help find something new.
“We researched everything to come up with the name,” Dinelle said. “We want all the community to be involved, black or white, French or English, or whatever, it doesn’t matter – it’s baseball – it’s for everybody and that’s what we want.”
Dinelle said the term “barnstormers” honours Chatham-Kent’s rich baseball history. Back in the day, members of athletic teams “barnstormed,” travelling around the countryside playing games – often exhibition matches – to earn extra money, something Dinelle said members of Chatham’s great teams, including the renowned Chatham Coloured All Stars, did in the past.
The Chatham Coloured All Stars were the first all-Black team to win a provincial championship.
A statement of support from the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum executive director and curator Samantha Meredith was also presented at the announcement.
Meredith said the organization is “super excited” about the Barnstormers name.
“We really think the community is going to love what The Hive came up with for the team and the amazing tribute it pays to the area’s baseball history,” Meredith said.
Dinelle said the new name has several reasons behind it. It honours the history of Chatham’s great baseball dynasty that garnered 24 Ontario championships in the 1950s and 60s, while acknowledging the fact that big league players Fergie Jenkins, Bill Atkinson and Doug Melvin grew up in Chatham.
“Chatham is the only Canadian city to have the privilege of having three legends that grew up on the same street,” Dinnelle said, adding the star athletes are an inspiration to youth.
“More that that, two of them (Jenkins and Atkinson) are part of our team,” he said. “How wonderful is that?”
Next steps for the Barnstormers include naming the new manager, said Dinelle, noting the announcement will be coming soon. Scouts are already on the hunt for players.
As well, team merchandise, featuring the Barnburner’s red, black and gold colours, is already available and can be purchased at the Chatham Pro Shop.
The Chatham-Kent Barnstormers are the ninth team to join the IBL. They are expected to begin play in 2024.