Modern sports mascots as we known them today started in baseball back in 1974 when a college student working as a radio station chicken mascot performed at a San Diego Padres game. The Famous Chicken, as he’d soon be known, performed for the station for 5 years before breaking free and holding his “Grand Hatching” in 1979. His popularity inspired other teams to get characters of their own and the mascot industry was born. Characters such as the Phillie Phanatic (1978), Fredbird/Cardinals (1979) and Orioles Bird (1979) have stood the test of time while others (Dandy/Yankees 1980, Ribbie & Rhoobarb/White Sox 81-88) faded away.
Baseball is the perfect venue for a mascot. The pace of the game, with its’ inning breaks and pitching changes, create multiple opportunities for a mascot to strut his/her stuff.
Here are suggestions on how to perform as a mascot at a baseball game, based on my 13+ years of performing at ballparks:
This is a great time to mingle, greet fans, and with players. It is one of your best opportunities for spontaneous crowd and player interactions. Greeting fans at “gates open” is a fun way to welcome customers into your park. If you schedule it as a photo session it is possible to get sponsors involved.
After greeting people at the gates, head to the field about 15-30 minutes prior to game time. Use this time to stretch with the home team, harass the opposing team as they warm up, and cruise around on an ATV or other mascot vehicle.
Interacting with opposing players is a delicate dance. While the majority of ballplayers are welcoming, some are not. I suggest starting your antics at a distance, judging the player’s reaction, and gradually moving in. If a player tells you to go away, leave. Try and find someone else. Just because you’re a mascot doesn’t mean you need to be a jerk. Over time you may even develop a relationship with certain players or entire teams. I spent years goofing around with the Orioles and knew they could be counted on to have fun, leading to some memorable interactions such as this video <click here>. I also cultivated a relationship with Angel Berroa which lead to this funny moment <click here> while working a game in Kansas City. The master of pregame antics is the Phillie Phantic. He has tried to arrest a Mets player, grown impatient with umpires, and just been a general goof. The Pirate Parrot also has great pregame antics.
Playing with umpires is much like working with the players, except they actually have the authority to eject you from a game. Umps are under a lot of stress and are subject to the verbal beatings of the crowd. In the majors I pretty much left them alone, except to occasionally salute them or wedge my way into their pregame conversation when the lineup cards are delivered. In the minors they were more game to play. Try and introduce yourself to the umpire crew before the game. By letting them see the person in the suit they’re more inclined to play with you.
On big games, you can use this time to pump up the crowd. During the 2008 MLB playoffs I would ride out to center field with my drum and some signs. I would rev the engine to get the crowds’ attention. Then I would bang on the drum to get them pumped up. I then set the signs on the ground so they could see what they said. One read “Tampa” the other “Bay.” I would gesture that left field was Tampa, right field was “Bay” and then do a 1-2-3 count and start the cheer side by side. After that cheer I’d pick up the drum and do a series of 3 beats leading the entire crowd in a “Let’s go Rays!” chant.
Generally pregame schtick goes on until either player introductions or the anthem. If they introduce the opposing team its a great time to head over to the opposing side and be unimpressed with their lineup. I would often give sarcastic claps, yawn, or just fall asleep on the field. When they announced the pitcher I would pantomime throwing a pitch and batter getting a home run. After the low energy of the opposing team, it’s a good idea run over to the home team side and react as they introduce your players. You can flex your muscles, beat your chest, act like you knocked it out of the park, etc. You can even develop a certain move for each player.
Once it’s time for the anthem, it’s time to chill out. Do not be disrespectful. It’s best to just stand still, remove your hat (if possible), and listen to the anthem. The anthem singer is excited for their moment, let them have it. Once he/she is done, feel free to give them a hug, bow down to them, kiss their feet, or act as their escort off the field.
Next up is usually a ceremonial first pitch. Again be respectful of someone else moment. A mascot can either act as a catcher or umpire. After that it’s usually the “play ball” kid. This is a young fan or fans that gets to “say those magic words” to start the game. I would just stand near them and high five or hug them once they were complete.
And now it’s game time! And after all of that, it’s usually time to take a break and get ready for 9 innings of baseball!
To be continued…..
Stay Fuzzy my friends~ Kelly