Texas has long been spoiled by its abundance of fantastic mascots in semipro, independent, and minor league baseball. We’re the home of Henry the Puffy Taco and his nemesis/colleague Ballapeño. The state where, when COVID-19 eliminated the 2020 minor league season, a city took it upon itself to form new teams called the Lightning Sloths and Eastern Reyes del Tigre in order to play a mini, bubble-enforced season inside a socially distanced stadium. Texas is where a city learned to open its heart to the humble Chihuahua, and a ball club unveiled the greatest uniform the sport has seen in the nearly two-hundred-year history of America’s pastime.
For the past decade, the constellation of stars in the brilliant night sky that is Texas’s lower-level ball clubs has included, shining brightly, the Sugar Land Skeeters. Inaugurated in 2012 as an independent organization, the team ascended to sanctioned minor league status in 2020, becoming the AAA affiliate for the nearby Astros.
And it was good. The Skeeters pursued glory, and fans in the southwestern suburbs of Houston could follow the team’s players all the way to the majors. No longer would the franchise have to rely on stunts like signing a fifty-year-old Roger Clemens to pitch a few innings; instead, fans could thrill to the exploits of players who could become the next Roger Clemens.
That opportunity will still exist in Sugar Land, but alas, the Skeeters themselves will not. This month, the Astros announced a plan to rebrand the Skeeters, and the details quickly leaked: No longer will the team be the Sugar Land Skeeters. Instead, it will do its business as the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
“Space Cowboys” is a pretty cool name for a baseball team, but we will miss the Skeeters. There was much to admire about an organization taking on the identity of one of the region’s most omnipresent nuisances—the dreaded mosquito—and saying, “that’s us,” and getting the fans to buy in. The Skeeters’ logo featured a yellow and blue mosquito with its stinger pierced through a baseball and a cocky grin on its face, as if to say, “Sure, I’m small and annoying, but you gotta deal with me anyway!” And the organization further anthropomorphized the obnoxious little critter by creating two fuzzy mascots, Swatson and Moe. It would have taken a can of Off! the size of Chase Tower to scare that pair of jolly green beasts away from the diamond.
What shall become of Swatson? Whither Moe? While the organization has yet to unveil its plans—or even make official the Space Cowboys—we must mourn the whimsy the Skeeters’ mascot duo brought to the ballpark. Swatson was a creature with a perfect name, sitting in the exact middle of the Venn diagram where “baseball” and “mosquito” intersect; Moe, his compatriot, looked just like him, except he wore a bandit mask for some reason. Will they have a home among the Space Cowboys?
It seems unlikely—the Skeeters’ social media accounts have been crafting a Swatson-less narrative in recent days, photoshopping him into images of various landmarks from around the globe, seemingly preparing to usher him off into the sunset.
It’s possible, we suppose, that Moe could hang around (though the send-off story line has Swatson dropping hints about a travel buddy he’s “MOEst excited” to see). But if the team wishes, its new name does leave open a small window of opportunity to keep Moe in the fold. “Space Cowboy” could be a reference to any number of pop culture moments—from Cowboy Bebop to Kacey Musgraves to Logic— but it’s probably most famous as a line from the song “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band. In the 1973 hit, the rocker sang, “Some people call me the space cowboy/Some call me the gangster of love/Some people call me Maurice,” and it seems obvious that the mascot for the Space Cowboys will have to be named Maurice. And what is the name “Moe,” after all, but a nickname for “Maurice”? Put a space walk helmet on the big green fella, slap a Stetson on top, and he could continue to fulfill his duties as mascot. (Swatson, meanwhile, better start updating his résumé—maybe he can catch on with a soccer team during his travels?)
We acknowledge that change is inevitable, and we admit that “the Skeeters,” while objectively a very good identity for a baseball team, does not have the most storied history, given that the organization is only ten years old. We further accept that “Space Cowboys” makes a lot of sense for an affiliate of the Houston Astros, even if it’s a little obvious. We’d just like to see the short, but real, legacy of the Skeeters acknowledged as the franchise rockets into the future. It wouldn’t be the first time; after the pandemic-adjusted 2020 season saw the Skeeters compete with three other newly formed Sugar Land–based teams, the Lightning Sloths’ mascot was absorbed into the Skeeters’ routine as Rally Sloth, a character who pops up in the ninth inning of games in which the Skeeters are trailing to fire up the crowd.
That may or may not be in the cards for Swatson and/or Moe, and the Astros organization surely has its own plans for how to bring the Sugar Land squad boldly into the future. With that in mind, we’d like to take just a moment before the Space Cowboys launch to remember the Skeeters—the underdog mascots of the Gulf Coast, who stung their way closer to the big leagues.