What's it like to be a baseball mascot? Biographile provided a peek into the unseen world of the men behind the mascots on Thursday in its interview with AJ Mass, a former Mr. Met and author of "Yes, It's Hot In Here; Adventures in the Weird, Wooly World of Sports Mascots." The end result is what the article's author, Patrick Sauer, terms "Nine Mascot Life Lessons, one for each inning of life."
I've learned some mascot lessons firsthand thanks to my own admittedly curious ambition and my wife's thoughtful nature. I was never the Oriole Bird, nor any other major league team's mascot for that matter, but I did get a costumed cup of coffee in the minors with an affiliate of an American League East foe.
In July 2007, I served as a guest mascot for the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. My ballpark visit was part of a birthday celebration for Wool E. Bull, the team's own beloved mascot. The invitation to the festivities came in response to an impassioned letter my wife wrote to the ball club that articulated my dream of being a mascot and requested their help in realizing that hope. So it was that I opened a letter on my birthday and learned that I was getting the call to the Bulls' pen for Wool E.'s birthday.
Lacking any training for the task at hand, I attended Mascot 101 the day prior to my debut. Tanner, the man behind Wool E. Bull at the time, taught the course, a one-hour mascot-to-masochist instructional over wings at a Durham sports bar. He was entirely likable, which is surprisingly not a given in the mascot world based on my small sample size of interactions.
My Mascot 101 lecture notes looked something like this: Drink lots of water. Don't talk or make sounds. Drink lots of water. Watch out for kids pulling your tail. Drink lots of water. Don't let your skin show. Drink lots of water.
Clearly, dehydration was an occupational hazard.
Tanner determined that I would need a larger costume to fit my tall frame. So long Blue Monster, hello Larry the Lion. The baseball world was to hear me roar the following day. (Figuratively speaking, that is; remember, no talking or making sounds.)
I joined several mascots on-hand (or paw) at the ballpark for Wool E. Bull's birthday party; to my knowledge, I was the only one making my rookie debut. Forget acting like I'd been there before, I posed for pictures with family in the dressing room prior to the game and shared in a good number of laughs. If I was to be the Moonlight Graham of mascots, I wouldn't make the same mistake he did of thinking "there'll be other days." I realized that was my only day.
I anchored a losing effort in the mascot tug of war and was taunted accordingly by a bench coach. I ran a leg in the Wool E. Bull base race (as you'd expect, the fix was in). I tossed t-shirts into the crowd. I participated in a mascot autograph session. I slipped, but didn't fall, on the dugout stairs while exiting the field following an on-field promotion. And I faced the distinct possibility of passing out after discovering that kids and the attendant parent paparazzi will swarm even a D-list mascot who dares enter the stands.
I never had the moment for which I secretly hoped, the one where the mascot equivalent of Shoeless Joe Jackson called out to me, "Hey rookie! You were good." I'm proud of my efforts, nonetheless.
I didn't talk or make sounds. I watched out for kids pulling my tail. I didn't show any skin. But I probably should have imbibed more water. Aspiring mascots, be forewarned: Please drink ... responsibly.
Have a look at some grainy video of my mascot cameo here.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.