In August of 1991 Bill Shanahan moved to the Columbia area and took over the Columbia Mets (Single A Affiliate/New York Mets), he was looking to take this organization in a different direction, to create new energy and excitement. Shanahan, a father and husband, had always been about family, community, and friendship and used this passion for baseball to bring those three things together. One of the first things he wanted to do was come up with a new name for the team that the people of Columbia and the surrounding areas could relate to and call their own.
In 1992, it was the 50th anniversary of “Doolittle’s Raiders” training here in there B25 Bombers during early days of of World War II. Doolittle’s Raiders carried out the mission to fly their B25 Bombers off an aircraft carrier in the pacific and bomb Japan. This was the first moral victory for the United States since Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. These brave men had no way to return to the aircraft carrier-they had to fly their mission with hope that they could eventually land in friendly territory. With this in mind, the Columbia Mets became the Bombers in honor of these brave men who gave their lives for our country. The Bombers name provided a long lasting legacy to show honor and respect.
During this time in the early 90’s the music world was being taken over by a local band and group of former University of South Carolina alums, Hootie and the Blowfish. In fact, Hootie and the Blowfish became the hottest band in the world! In September of 1993, Hootie returned home from their Cracked Rear View Tour. They needed a venue to host their “Homecoming”. Enter Shanahan and others who convinced promoters to have the homecoming at Historic Capital City Stadium, home of the Bombers. Over 11,000 fans packed into The Cap. The stands were full as was the infield and outfield. The stage was set straight away center. It was a night to remember for decades to come as Columbia and the Midlands got a chance to welcome home their musical hometown heroes!
In 1996, Shanahan had a new mission ahead of him. To build a new minor league stadium in Mobile Alabama for the AA Affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Mobile is the home of five hall of famers including Satchel Paige, Billy Williams, Willie McCovey, Ozzie Smith and one other-famour name—-Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. The true all time home run king. The stadium was named in Hank’s honor. But Bill and his wife Vicki always felt that someday they would like to return to South Carolina.
Years later, the Bombers (who were now under new ownership), ended up relocating to Greenville, South Carolina in 2004. Bill was still in Mobile as President of the Mobile BayBears, when he received a phone call from Columbia Mayor Bob Coble. Mayor Coble discussed the possibilities of bringing another team to the old ballpark in Columbia. Shanahan felt that a summer collegiate baseball franchise in the Coastal Plain League could be a great fit as its season began as USC Gamecocks baseball comes to a close.
A name was needed for this new team. Bill felt this could be a great way to honor the greatest musical group in the history of Columbia and the Midlands, Shanahan thought why not the Blowfish? After a couple of phone calls and a thumbs up from friend and founding member of the band, Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, the Blowfish were born. It was fun, creative and a way to keep the Blowfish name going. Opening night in 2006, when the Blowfish re-opened Capital City Stadium- the first ceremonial pitch was delivered by a Blowfish- his name- Jim “Soni” Sonefeld-Drummer of Hootie and the Blowfish.
After over a decade as the Columbia Blowfish, Shanahan relocated the Blowfish to a brand new ballpark in Lexington County in 2015. The people of Lexington County have embraced this team and organization with much joy and pride and the future now looks even better and brighter for our beloved Blowfish.
So there’s the story……of how and why the team is named the Blowfish! Oh and one other tidbit of information. Each game the Blowfish honor the group with a “HOOTIE” inning and play one of their songs between innings.