Hughes Helps Move Rumble Ponies Out Of The Past
John Hughes is not a hands-off owner. When he buys a club, he wants to put his stamp on it. He wants to be at the ballpark watching the games, tasting the food, meeting the employees, and figuring out what he can do to make everyday experience better.
So when it came time for his Binghamton club to announce its new name last winter, he not only wanted to be at the ceremony, he wanted to be the master of ceremonies.
“I pride myself in being part of the organization," he said, "and I’ve done everything here from serving popcorn, making popcorn to pouring beer all the way to writing checks to get construction projects done. I want to be part of winner, and that’s what we’re building here: a winner.”
And after he purchased the team in late 2015, Hughes was certain he wanted to change the name. He saw the orange that stood for the New York Giants and the blue that stood for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the bridge to Manhattan that was incorporated into their logo.
That could not stand. The team played its games in Binghamton, so the name and identity had to represent Binghamton.
“None of those things have anything to do with Binghamton, so I thought, ‘Well, let’s start by making this our own team rather than someone else’s team and organization.’ That’s where, to me, it all started. And it kind of took off from there.”
Once the name was announced, it was time to go into the offseason and continue tinkering until all vestiges of the team’s previous identity—the Binghamton Mets—were gone. That meant not only getting rid of the aesthetic elements, but also renovating the NYSEG Stadium itself and making it a place the Mets could be proud to send their prospects.
For the players, state-of-the-art batting cages, complete with all new bells and whistles were installed. For the fans, a party deck, new suites and a second entrance were added. All that added up to a better experience for everyone involved.
Then came opening night, the first test of the sticking power of a team’s new identity.
“Everybody could see all the construction that had been done and all of the work with the uniforms and all the construction around the facility and all of the naming things that had been done around the stadium,” Hughes said.
“To cap the night off—I think it was in the third or fourth inning—we had a packed house that night and we had an in-game contest and the emcee said ‘Hey, can I get a 'Go Ponies?!’ and the fan chanted ‘Let’s go B-Mets!’ and the entire stadium booed him. And it was at that point I thought, ‘Man, we have made it. We are through the fog. It’s been nothing but afterburners ever since.”
With the season just a month from completion and Opening Day long in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look forward to what comes next in the new era of baseball in Binghamton. Earlier this week, the team announced it would host the 2020 Eastern League All-Star Game, the first time the city has been awarded the league’s midsummer classic.
In the near-term, however, Hughes and the team will do whatever they can to take the Rumble Ponies onward and upward.
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“Our vision was to make it fun. To do something and be part of something that was just fun. That was my vision. Whatever fun was, that’s what I was going to be a part of,” Hughes said. “I’ve told anyone in Binghamton who will listen: My job is to continue to grow the organization and to continue to develop the organization, and I’m never going to stop.”