ASHEBORO — You can put away your Copperheads gear.
The Coastal Plain League team in Asheboro is now the ZooKeepers.
The team announced the change Monday morning at the Asheboro Recreation Center on North Street. General Manager Dennis Garcia made known the new name in dramatic fashion.
“Since 1999, the Copperheads have represented Asheboro in the CPL,” he said. “Now they’re called …”
Music wafted over the gym as team members removed jackets and outerwear and coverings were pulled from posters, revealing …
“… the Asheboro ZooKeepers!”
Garcia said the name change will coincide with renovations to McCrary Park, beginning this year. “The entire organization is excited about the change.”
Asheboro Mayor David Smith told the audience it was “exciting to see the new logo for the Copperheads.”
When a voice yelled out “Who?” Smith corrected himself: “The ZooKeepers. Old habits die hard.”
Smith said the city has in recent years “tried to be better partners with the (North Carolina) Zoo. Nobody else in the state, and maybe the country, has that asset … the reputation as home of the largest natural habitat zoo in the world.
“Anything that brings people to Asheboro to leave their money here, we welcome that. I’m anxious to see what kind of mascot the ZooKeepers have. We hope to have a nice new ballpark for them to play in.”
Justin Sellers is commissioner of the Coastal Plains League, a summer league for college players using wooden bats. He applauded the Pugh family, which owns the ZooKeepers, and their staff for “bring(ing) a lot of energy” to the league and “do it the right way. I’m very excited about the future of ZooKeepers baseball.”
Linda Brown, president of the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce called this “new chapter” a “fantastic win for all of us. It’s a great way to start a new year.”
Diane Villa, director of marketing with the NC Zoo, said she was not only “very excited” but “deeply honored” by the name change. Noting that the zoo has about a million guests a year, she called it a “very special destination. This is a grand slam for the city, the team, the county and the zoo.”
Doug Pugh, head of the ownership team, said, "Over the past year or so, we took a long look at our brand and thought this was an ideal time to create something new and fresh.
“We've always been focused on delivering a fun product for the whole family, so what better theme to build off than Asheboro's biggest attraction? ZooKeepers was a no-brainer!”
Later, Pugh gave credit to Buddy Bengle of the Morehead City Marlins, who had told Pugh, “ ‘With where you are, ZooKeepers seems right.’
“We started talking about it and here we are.”
Pugh credited Skye Dillon of Skye Design Studios for coming up with the ZooKeepers logos.
Pugh’s father, Richard Pugh, thought it apropos that “we were the first to commit as a sponsor” back in 1999 when the Copperheads were organized. Pugh Oil Co. and Tank & Tummy were those first sponsors. “I felt it was a good program,” Richard Pugh said.
Mayor Smith said in an interview that the city is working now to get the McCrary Park playing field resurfaced before the summer baseball season begins. Meanwhile, Asheboro High School and other teams will be playing at Kiwanis Field. “We’re pushing hard to make sure the field is playable.”
That’s just the first phase of the renovations to the ballpark. Plans are to expand the grandstand and build new restrooms and concessions as well as other improvements, such as a fieldhouse for the players.
Garcia ended the session, saying, “I can’t wait to see you next season at the ballpark with the Asheboro ZooKeepers.”