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Florence professional baseball team gets permission from City Council to change name…and it’s “Y’alls”

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Florence Freedom is no more, but don’t Y’all be too disappointed.

The owners of the city’s professional baseball team were granted permission by the Florence City Council to change its name to the Florence Y’alls.

Key stakeholders from the region, including Florence Mayor Diane Whalen, talk about the rebranding of the Florence Freedom as the Florence Y’alls

Baseball season is still a few months away, but the team’s CEO, David Del Bello was already pitching the team’s new identity to the council and fans.

He said the new ownership sees the team as an integral part of the community.

Florence Y’alls CEO David Del Bello makes his pitch to the Florence City Council Tuesday night (photos by Mark Hansel).

“We want it to continue to be a community asset and then take it a step further and help what we believe is truly important, which is supporting our national pastime and help grow baseball, especially with our kids,” Del Bello said.

As part of the team’s lease with the City of Florence, which owns the field, a name changed had to be approved by the council. Councilman Mel Carroll was not at the meeting, but has expressed support for the change in the past and the vote was unanimous among those present.

“What we have in Florence has kind of been a hidden gem,” Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said. It kind of sits on a hill, it graces the presence of our community as you enter from the south and a lot of people don’t know it’s there. So, any opportunity we have, or you have, to call more people into that stadium and learn the story (is welcome). We are Y’all…and we’re very proud of that.”

Del Bello led a group that purchased the team from owner Kim Brown in July. Brown took control of the team after her husband, Clint Brown, the team’s previous owner, died unexpectedly in January, 2018.

She vowed to keep the team in Florence and the new ownership group promised to do that.

Del Bello thanked Brown for her help with the transition.

Former Florence Freedom owner Kim Brown, right, listens intently with longtime fans Bev Snider and Shirley Brown, as new owner David Del Bello speaks to the Florence City Council Tuesday night.

“She allowed us to buy the team,” Del Bello said. “She has been nothing but a support for us, as we learn about the team, as we go on and as we change things, Kim is there every day helping us out.”

Del Bello said fan satisfaction has always been high at Freedom games, but attendance has been flat for several years.

Comments such as “Oh, I forgot about that team,” or “It’s fun to go there…but I haven’t been there for five-plus years,” were all too common.

“That’s not acceptable,” Del Bello said. “A business cannot be run with such a stagnant customer base.”

In addition to a new team name, the rebranding will include cosmetic and functional upgrades in an effort to draw more fans.

“We (will) change things within the ballpark, we change what we do as an organization, we change how we present ourselves to our customers,” Del Bello said. “We can do that and we can put a bigger emphasis on things like making it a better show, (but) at the end of the day, that doesn’t drive the needle, or make a big, big difference.”

One thing that has been very successful for other lower-tier professional baseball teams is a name change and rebranding.

“That is the one area, that a minor league team can affect,” Del Bello said. “If you create a new brand, a new image, it creates excitement, it creates buzz, it gives people a reason to come again.”

The new owners encouraged fan participation in the rebranding and renaming.

The new Florence Y’alls logo was also revealed Tuesday night

In October, they introduced a “Name the Team” contest, that included more than 2,200 entries.

Of those, more than 39 percent suggested some form of the name Y’alls.

The top five names announced for subsequent public voting were Y’alls, Fossil Jockeys, No Sox, Go-Goettas and Pop Flies.

Y’alls, with almost 70 precent of the vote, was the overwhelming choice of fans.

The team offered this explanation as to why the name Y’Alls is a fitting choice, beyond its popularity with voters:

1974: Mayor Hop Ewing was in a sticky spot. The Florence water tower needed to be repainted to remove the word “Mall” because it was illegal to have corporate sponsorships on a water tower. An ingenious problem solver, Hop decided he’d paint over the sides of the “M” and turn it into a “Y,” and ever since the tower has read “Florence Y’all.” 

What was a simple solution to avoid a legal issue has grown into a cultural landmark. Visit the “Y’all” entry on Wikipedia and you’ll find the water tower has become a symbol for something bigger. 

Y’all isn’t just a water tower: y’all is a culture, and Florence is its capital. 

In the capital of y’all culture play the Florence Y’alls: the baseball team that’s pure Kentucky. As the first (going south) and last (going north) professional sports team in the south, it’s our obligation to deliver nostalgic charm with competitive baseball, topped with a Kentucky Twist. 

This is Y’alls Team. GO Y’ALLS!

Secondary logos that will be used by the Florence Y’alls Independent Frontier League team (click to enlarge).

Also in attendance at Tuesday’s announcement at the Florence Government Center were two of the team’s longtime fans.

Bev Snider and Shirley Brown, who are sisters, have been following the team since it came to Florence in 2004.

They also started a program to find sponsor families for Freedom Players during the season.

The Florence professional baseball team is a member of the Independent Frontier League. The team plays all of its home games at UC Health Stadium, in Florence.

While baseball at the major league level is a very lucrative job, the same is not true of those playing unaffiliated minor league ball.

Most have regular jobs in the offseason and finding someone willing to supply them with room and board can be the difference between continuing to play and giving up the dream.

“We retired from the program, but we still go to every game, we maybe miss one a year,” Snider said. “We’re used to the term Florence Freedom, but whatever it takes to get people into the seats. It’s too good a product to not have people in the seats.”

Brown said she also supports the new team name.

“It will take a little getting used to, because we’ve been around from the beginning, but it’s going to be good,” Brown said.

The Northern Kentucky Tribune was there as David Del Bello, CEO of the team formerly known as the Florence Freedom, gained approval from the City Council to change the name of the team to the Florence Y'alls.

Posted by Mark Hansel on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

This video collage shows some of the images from Tuesday’s announcement that the Florence professional baseball team will change its name from Freedom to Y’alls.

Florence Councilman Gary Winn has been a season ticket holder since day one.

“I understand the need to rebrand and how they’ve tied it in with the city is awesome,” Winn said. “I love the logo concepts and I can’t wait to see the product when they get out on the field. I’m excited for the ownership It’s great day.”

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytribune.com

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