Lakeland Unveils 'Flying Tigers' Nickname

Back during World War II, an airfield dominated the city of Lakeland, and it was named the Lakeland School of Aeronautics. Tigertown, the spring home of the Detroit Tigers, now sits where the Lakeland School of Aeronautics once was, and going with the history of the facility, the FSL's Lakeland club has gone through with a makeover, officially changing its name to the ‘Flying Tigers'.

Ron Myers, director of Florida operations for the Detroit Tigers, had long wanted to differentiate between the Tigers' "spring home" and the Florida State League club that occupied the stadium for the next five months. The hope is that the name change will help that process, and generate more interest in the club during the summer months.

There is plenty of history when it comes to ‘Flying Tigers' and the city of Lakeland. The airbase in Lakeland specialized in training these ‘Flying Tigers'.

While Tigertown is now clearly a baseball facility, you can still see where the facility once was. Airplane hangars are now used for storage for the city of Lakeland, and the main runway still exists as a large stretch of concrete, separating the main stadium and the practice fields in back.

The new name isn't the first reference to Lakeland's association with flying. On two separate occasions, the city's team's nickname was the Pilots.

The new team logo will still feature the Tiger, but with wings on both sides. The team uniforms will also feature a picture of the P-40 fighter with its trademark teeth on the front of the plane.

Likewise, the stadium will see some decoration changes, with the theme taking a Tigertown USA feel, to reach out to the military roots the team's nickname now holds. That won't be the only reference, as Opening Night will also feature P-40 fighters, and the team will have USO nights, honoring Americans currently serving overseas.

Myers is hopeful that the new look will drum up more interest in the summer club, who has often been an afterthought in Lakeland, regularly drawing just a couple hundred fans. Photographer and Lakeland resident Roger DeWitt also contributed to this report.

You can contact Paul Wezner at

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