Johnstown welcomed a flock of Disco Turkeys on Sunday afternoon.
These Carolina Disco Turkeys actually migrated from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and drove almost non-stop for eight hours to arrive within minutes of their scheduled 2 p.m. registration session in advance of the 76th AAABA Tournament.
The Disco Turkeys, who created a social media and merchandise-selling frenzy since the baseball team’s inception in March, are the newest franchise to play in the tournament, which begins on Monday at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point and outlying fields in the region.
“We met at our coach’s school at 5:30 in the morning,” said Greg Sullivan, team president and co-founder. “Everybody was on time. Hopefully that speaks well for how we’re going to do in the tournament. We left at 6 and barely stopped. We drove straight up and arrived on time.”
Sullivan was with Disco Turkeys manager Kirk Cabana and 19 players who made the long drive to the Holiday Inn Downtown’s Crown Ballroom for registration.
Tournament organizers scheduled Carolina – officially listed as the North Carolina franchise – to be the final group to register among 16 teams.
Sullivan is accustomed to a hectic and sometimes unusual pace.
“We didn’t announce the team until late March. We had to work with a minor league baseball team, which their schedule was backed up because of COVID and we had to build our schedule around theirs,” Sullivan said.
“We just put a whole team together. We already had been building a roster.
“We launched a brand and built a game-day staff, kind of like a minor league team,” Sullivan said. “It was a lot of work, day and night, until we got it done. Our city really embraced us.”
The AAABA announced last year that a new franchise had been approved in North Carolina. Sullivan and his team filled that slot and brought energy as well as a strong social media and merchandising presence.
“When you tell people you’re going to be the Disco Turkeys, you’re not really sure how people are going to respond,” Sullivan said. “But our town really embraced it. The area, and to some extent the country, embraced it and had a lot of fun with it.”
The name struck a cord on multiple fronts.
“It also attracted a certain fun-loving player,” Sullivan said. “As you can see (during Sunday’s registration), some of our players have unusual hairstyles and a little bit of a funky nature about them. That’s part of our charm.
“We also play in one of the best stadiums in summer collegiate baseball, a minor league stadium, and I think that also attracted serious players,” added Sullivan of Truist Stadium, home of the High-A Winston-Salem Dash.
So, why Disco Turkeys? And, a logo that features a peacock wearing a John Travolta-like white leisure suit while pointing a finger to the sky, just like in the 1970s movie “Saturday Night Fever?”
Sullivan said his group avoided a name-the-team contest.
“I think when you do that, you get a poll-tested name and you’re going to lose the ability to surprise people and do something unusual,” Sullivan said.
Unusual might be the most appropriate word associated with this name.
“We wanted to take a risk,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s similar to (minor league Rocket City) Trash Pandas, where it’s funny, but also it’s an animal.
“For me, you could also play music into it. Our game days are full of 70’s style music.
“That adds beyond the idea, ‘OK, it’s funny that a peacock is called a Disco Turkey.’ You’ve taken another level by actually playing 70s style music. We had a game and had 1970s White Sox uniforms experiment where we wore shorts for a game. The players love it.
“I don’t think we brought any shorts to Johnstown.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.