Moniker Madness: What's in a name?

Vote for the Minors' best name

Over the next three weeks, will combine the quintessentially American endeavors of baseball and democracy in order to determine an issue of the utmost importance: Who has the greatest name in all of Minor League Baseball?

Welcome to Minors Moniker Madness (or MMM for short). In deference to the addictive popularity of the NCAA Division I basketball championship, this heated competition is structured in much the same way. An initial field of 64 names will be systematically whittled down until just one remains, the result of six rounds of increasingly heated fan voting.

The last man standing will be the recipient of the Wonderful Terrific Monds III Award, named after perhaps the most brilliant moniker the world of professional baseball has ever seen. Catcher-turned-knuckleballer Houston Summers, a Diamondbacks prospect, won the inaugural competition in 2007. Last year, San Diego farmhand Will Startup emerged triumphant. As for 2009 ... Who knows?

The diligent, and decidedly masochistic, MMM selection committee waded through more than 8,000 names to determine the initial field of 64. Some of these names speak to the genius of repetition (Henry Henry, Jose Jose), while others illustrate the beauty of alliteration (Rocky Roquet, Darlin Duran, Benito Beato). Many passed the test because of their ability to conjure up big-name celebrities (Burt Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Chris Farley), but others made the cut due to their sheer originality (Beamer Weems, Jetsy Extrano, Dusty Napoleon).

And like the NCAA basketball tournament, there was plenty of debate over who should make it and who should be left behind. In the interest of transparency and accountability, here were the final four competitors added to the contest:

  • Rubby De La Rosa (Dodgers): Sometimes one letter makes all the difference. Robby is commonplace, Rubby is sublime.

  • Sugar Ray Marimon (Royals): Proving that those dubbed Sugar Ray can hold their own on the pitcher's mound as well as the boxing ring.

  • Gift Ngoepe (Pirates): A Pirates farmhand who suited up for South Africa in the World Baseball Classic, Ngoepe (pronounced in-WE-pay) has a first name that speaks for itself.

  • Chao-Ting Tang (Tigers): Possessed of a staccato crispness that could not possibly be improved upon. Say it three times fast.

Meanwhile, here are some of the more prominently named individuals who were denied entry into the contest. Better luck next year to:

  • Vernal Bogle
  • Jon Bravo
  • Chip Cannon
  • Marcel Champagnie
  • Jeyckol De Leon
  • Balbino Fuenmayor
  • Bridger Hunt
  • Kila Ka'aihue
  • T.J. Large
  • Fabio Murakami
  • Skyler Stromsmoe
  • Nic Ungs

We preemptively apologize to all those who may disagree with our selections, but now is not the time to focus on what could have been. Instead, let us gaze resolutely into the future, ready to participate in each round of voting until just one name remains.

It all starts ... NOW. Get to it, America.

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.