It’s River Pigs!
TUPPER LAKE — David “Haji” Maroun walked over to the table under a pop-up tent at the Municipal Park Saturday, dressed in a white Saranac Lake Surge T-shirt, grabbed a pen and selected his vote for the name of this village’s new professional baseball team. River Pigs.
Maroun and 447 other residents voted for the name, and with about 70% of the vote, Empire Professional Baseball League President Eddie Gonzalez confirmed that River Pigs will be the name of Tupper Lake’s team, which is expected to hit the field in the summer of 2020.
Maroun, a village trustee, knows the game. He’s played baseball and softball in Tupper Lake from Little League through high school and into his adult years. He’s a leading organizer of the incoming baseball team, and after the vote, he said he was impressed by the turnout.
“(It’s) amazing for the community,” Maroun said, adding that he saw children and adults excited for the new team.
The makeshift voting booth in the Tupper Lake Municipal Park’s parking lot was open from noon to 6 p.m. To vote, people would show up, sign their name in a book and then fill out a blank ballot by selecting only one of the seven name options for the new team.
The vote was held nine days after Maroun posted on Facebook that the proposed name of River Pigs would be changed. Numerous Tupper Lake residents had been complaining that the term is offensive and that it would not represent the community in a positive way. After the Aug. 22 announcement about the name change, the local committee pushing to bring an Empire League team to Tupper Lake decided to hold a vote on the name.
It was a success. The turnout surpassed Tupper Lake’s school board elections in May when only 380 people voted. On Saturday, the ballots totaled 639.
After the votes were counted, there was a discrepancy. A total of 646 people had signed up to vote, yet only 639 ballots had actually been cast. Mike Russell, who had worked at the booth throughout the afternoon, said someone had signed up and voted who had not actually been there, a violation of the rules. It was unclear if a proxy voter had been sent instead. Russell said he ripped up the ballot, as the person was supposed to vote in person.
The other name choices were River Drivers (124 votes), The Axemen (26), River Otters (16), Tupper Timbers (15), Rowdy Bucks (3) and Mighty Hemlocks (2). In addition to one write-in vote, there were also two spoiled ballots, meaning they had more than one name selected.
Throughout the counting of the votes, there were several watchers and even a live stream on Facebook of the counting by Ron LaScala, a village trustee. His phone died at one point during the recording, but Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Royce Cole, who is also on the River Pigs Baseball Committee, quickly whipped out his phone and started counting.
LaScala said after the ballots had been counted, the important thing was for the village to move on and rejoice in their new team. Some pointed out that the difference between the votes cast for the River Pigs and every other option was so great that no change would be made to the vote if missing votes went to some name other than River Pigs.
After Maroun announced the tallies, he called Gonzalez, who is in Florida, about the result. Gonzalez has been a proponent for River Pigs, proposing it after a friend of his researched Tupper Lake’s history and said it was a name for people who dealt with floating logs on the river during the village’s lumbering and river driving days. Tupper Lake was a lumber town, and logs were floated down the Raquette River to mills on the shore of Raquette Pond. The Big Mill, operated by John Hurd, was located on the current site of the Municipal Park ball field.
The voting event also raised a little over $1,000 in donations from the public. The money will go to repairing and rebuilding the ball field in the Municipal Park. Through a donation of food from Rick Reandeau of New York Life Insurance, hot dogs and hamburgers were sold to the public during the vote.
The Tupper Lake River Pigs will be the second Empire League team in the Tri-Lakes region. The Saranac Lake Surge debuted this summer and played at the Wilson Raymond Field next to the Petrova Elementary/Middle School.
(Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this report.)