Our annual voting process begins in the Bulltron Regional, where the two-seed is carrying on an important and unusual baseball tradition. Cleveland Indians farmhand Sicnarf Loopstok is one of the few players in sporting history whose first name is his father’s first name (Francis) spelled backwards.
As many baseball fans -- particularly those from New England -- will remember, the most famous dad’s-first-name-spelled-backwards player of all-time is Nomar Garciaparra, former Red Sox shortstop and son of Ramon. Thanks to the dropped r’s of the Boston accent, the first name ‘Nomah’ took on a memetic quality all its own, and while Garciaparra was only able to muster eight votes in his first and only appearance on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, his moniker has been enshrined in a rare club, of which Sicnarf is also a member.
Sicnarf’s first name, like Nomar’s, has attracted a fair bit of attention, even though the 22-year-old catcher (who was born in Aruba) still has not progressed beyond the single-A level of the Indians’ farm system. In 2013, he won Minor Leage Baseball’s ‘Moniker Madness’ tournament, beating out a strong field that included Stryker Trahan, Forrest Snow, and Jose Jose. At the time, he expressed nothing but love for the father who named him. "I thought, this is a great thing," he said. "My family noticed and they supported and voted for me -- they were great."
By coming out on top in Moniker Madness, Sicnarf has won the Name of the Year version of a conference tournament, and while it may have taken us a couple years to notice him, we’re finally doing our duty and punching his ticket to the Big Dance. Here, he’ll be up against much stiffer competition than in his previous onomastic contest. His first-round opponent, 15-seed Chizu Shimizu Buckalew, is a San Diego resident with a three-pronged rhyming attack and an upwelling of support on the Internet. Given the imperfect nature of NOTY seeding, it is entirely possible for Chizu to pull off the upset. If that were to happen, it would be an unfortunate result for Sicnarf, but even the best baseball players strike out from time to time. Plus, as he is hoping to one day play professional sports in Cleveland, he should probably get used to the taste of defeat.
Will Sicnarf hold off his challenger? Or will Chizu pull off the upset? You can decide the answer, as well as the results of seven other match-ups, by voting below. And as always, be sure to follow along on Twitter for updates.
#4 Brodarius Hamm, four-star football recruit, vs. #13 Ka’Jandre Domino, Grambling State wide receiver.
#6 Onno Hoes, former Maastricht mayor ousted by a sex scandal, vs. Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco 49ers strong safety.
#3 Charol Shakeshaft, sexual abuse researcher, vs. #14 Tchaikovsky Cantalicio, incoming Buffalo University wide receiver.
#2 Sicnarf Loopstok vs. #15 Chizu Shimizu Buckalew