Archive for the ‘Mascots’ Category

Bus Leaguers Work on the 4th

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We here at Bus Leagues have the usual thanks to hand out on Independence Day.

Thanks to the Founding Fathers for having a dream of freedom. Thanks to the farmers and merchants who answered the call and fought against overwhelming odds to realize that vision. Thanks to everyone who has fought to preserve that freedom, with pen or sword, since then.

I was thinking today, as I considered whether to take my family out to a ballgame to get our fireworks fix, that we should thank the players, execs, ticket sellers, on-field promotions personnel, and mascots who head into work today to make sure we all have a good time. For most of us, the holiday means extra time off from work to spend with our families and our grilling apparatus. But in baseball, more often than not, it’s game day.

So thanks, Bus League pros. We owe you one. Have a cold one on us after you’re done cleaning up the popcorn and spilled drinks. And enjoy those fireworks. They’re for you, too.

You Want Mascot Stories? I’ve Got Mascot Stories

Yesterday, Extra P brought us the story of Jacob Osterhout and his audition to be the mascot for the Brooklyn Cyclones.  Jacob’s story made me laugh, yeah, but it also caused some seriously scary flashbacks.

As I’ve mentioned on here a time or ten, I used to work for a professional baseball team (I think this is the first time I’ve talked about it this season, so if you had May 7 in the “OMDQ brags about his past work experiences” pool, you win!).  One of my responsibilities?  Dressing up as Prime Time the Moose for appearances at local schools and community gatherings.  Fortunately, I was never called upon to do it during a game, although I always sort of wanted to try.  Still, it probably would have been a disaster – with small groups, I was decent; I couldn’t see myself as an entertainer of hundreds.

Still, Extra P asked for mascot stories, and I’ve got a couple, so I figured I’d share them here.  I’m even sitting on the couch as I type, so it’s like therapy.

3) My worst mascot experience actually doesn’t involve me wearing the suit.  In 2004, the Nashua Pride didn’t really have a set person in charge of promotions, so three front office people handled various aspects of the job.  I generally put the game script together for the PA announcer (sometimes to great comic effect, as I’ve chronicled here before) and occasionally bossed the mascot around.  Yes, I’m terrible at management.

Our primary mascot that year was a high school kid named John.  He loved the gig, got really into it, did a great job.  One day, however, I saw him sitting down on the stone wall that runs almost parallel to the field just past first base.  This offended my delicate sensibilities regarding what a mascot should and should not do, and I told him so.

“Don’t sit down when you’re outside,” I ordered the next time I saw him.  “If you need to sit and take a break, come into the office.  It doesn’t look good for the mascot to be sitting down like that when he should be entertaining.”  Sound advice, I thought.  Unfortunately, it was about a million degrees, and he interpreted “Don’t sit down outside” as “Don’t take breaks ever,” which led to a call over the radio that he had stumbled into the umpire’s locker room, taken the head off, and passed out.

He was okay in the end, of course, but really, it was a terrible feeling and one of the main exhibits for why I should never be in charge of people.

2) In an effort to extend the Pride’s reach out to the Seacoast region, I signed Prime Time up to take part in Portsmouth’s holiday parade.  It was actually my second parade in the region – I grew up in Rye, the town next door, and my parents still live there and know everybody, so they got me involved in that one (it took some time for my nephew Patrick to grasp that it was Uncle Brian inside that big hairy moose suit).  For Portsmouth, I was joined by my brother Tim.

I realized something important that night: when you take cold December air and hot breath and combine them in an enclosed space, glasses will fog up.  Within minutes, I was blind as a bat, truly A Moose On The Loose, with Tim doing his level best to point me in the right direction.

He couldn’t protect me from everything, however, and that’s why this experience made this post.  I was walking along the street, waving to fans, maybe attempting the occasional high-five, when all of a sudden, “WHOOMP,” I felt something hit my midsection.  No idea what it was until I was able to find Tim, who leaned in close and told me what had happened:

A little kid had broken free from the crowd, run out into the street, and attempted to give Prime Time a big hug.  Not a problem ordinarily…except, of course, in this situation, Prime Time couldn’t see a damn thing.  From what Tim told me, the kid hit me at full speed, bounced off, and was eventually corralled by his parents.

And then I finished the parade, changed behind a parked car, and got the hell out of there.

1) My best mascot story is also my first mascot story.  I started working for the Pride on June 1, 2003.  Somehow, I made it all the way to July before it became necessary for me to don the smelly, perpetually wet suit.

It was another parade, this one for the Fourth of July.  It wasn’t in Nashua, but one of the surrounding towns, Hudson or Litchfield or Hollis.  Someplace not too far away.  My spotter was Andy, our assistant general manager.  I figured it’d be a piece of cake.  Wear the suit, dance around, shake some hands, entertain some kids.  How hard could it be?

At the beginning, it wasn’t bad.  I did all the aforementioned stuff, and I think I was okay.  Then, my body started to realize that it was 95 degrees.  Right around the time I actually started to melt, Andy leaned over and said, “Hey, we’re about halfway.  I’m gonna go grab the car and meet you at the end.”  And he left me there, to die all alone in the streets of Hudson or Litchfield or Hollis or wherever the hell we were.

What he neglected to mention, I think, was that he was getting out right in time (or maybe he did mention it.  This was six years ago).  The end of the parade route featured a hill.  A very, very big hill that might as well have been Mount Washington at that point.  It was horrible.  I thought I was gonna have to crawl to the finish, which would not have been a positive memory for the local children to have of Prime Time.

Luckily I made it and changed in a dugout at the local Little League field, where Andy found me and gave me a bottle of water.  I think I ate it rather than waste time with something silly like drinking.  Then he took me home (after laying a towel on the front seat to soak up my sweat – I looked like Jason Giambi), leaving me to reflect on the situation and hope that it never happened again.

Little did I know that the day would come when our then-promotions manager would set an ambitious appearance schedule, figuring he could do as many as necessary, only to be laid off a month before the season, leading to me donning the mascot suit as many as three times in a single Saturday.  I still can’t pet a wet dog without shuddering.

It’s Hard Out There for a Seagull

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Some of you may know that I spend my winter months talking college hoops at Storming the Floor. One of the best things that happened to the site last season was technically a bad thing. Sports Illustrated columnist Jacob Osterhout was part of the reduction in staff at SI, and his popular column The Dean’s List became homeless. STF’s founder, Marco “It-can’t-hurt-to-ask” Anskis, shot an email to Jacob and asked him if he’d like to resurrect the column on our site, and he miraculously agreed. So I came to know this talented and funny NY-based writer in a sort of “internet buddy” way.

Aside from his attempts to flush his career away by writing for some internet basketball hooligans, Jacob also writes regularly for the New York Daily News. Last week, he went to the Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark to try out for the role of Sandy the Seagull. Hilarity and sweating ensued.

I started with some Electric Slide moves I hadn’t used since junior high, quickly transitioned into a salsa number and finished up with a moonwalk. The kids loved it, but I quickly ran out of dance moves, so we moved on to the shirt toss. 

It is surprisingly hard to throw a shirt with any sort of accuracy when you can’t see and only have three fingers. Despite my best efforts at spreading out the giveaways, one fourth-grader ended up with three shirts.

Finally, we arrived at the main event. Five students were chosen to race Sandy around the base path.

By this time, my T-shirt was soaked with sweat and I felt lightheaded. But there was no way I was going to be beaten by 9-year-olds, especially after the kids were told that Sandy had never lost a race.

[NY Daily News]

I have a hard time with sweat when I’m sitting still scarfing a hot dog on an 85-degree day, so this sounds unbearable to me. But it just makes me respect the people who do the mascot job that much more. Even rainy days aren’t safe, as you may remember that I saw Southpaw the Hillcat take a header during his dugout dance after stepping in a puddle of water.

I highly recommend that you read the rest of the article – it’s truly funny. And, if anyone reading this has a mascot experience you’d like to share, drop us a line at busleagues at gmail dot com. Or leave it in the comments – either way. We’d love to hear about it.

Potomac Nationals at Lynchburg Hillcats – 4/10/2009

My son was on spring break last week, so it was a perfect time for us to take in our first game of the season. Since the Braves flew the coop in Richmond, Lynchburg is the nearest minor-league town to ours, and we go there often. This time out, I was excited to see the Pirates’ top new prospect, former Vanderbilt star Pedro Alvarez.

Alvarez went 0-5, but knocked in a couple of RBIs. The Hillcats beat the Potomac Nationals 14-7 to start their season undefeated. Here’s what it looked like from where I was sitting.

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Jester-dude who made balloon animals/hats/stuff. My son was very skeptical of his schtick.

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Jack with the innovative new Lynchburg Hillcats foam claw. He’ll never go back to the plain old foam finger now.

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This young lady was the hottest concessions worker I’ve ever seen, but she messed up my order bad. That’ll teach me – always buy snacks from the old guy who’s been there a thousand years.

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Fans are always welcome to chat or nab a signature. We sat along the third base line, right next to the home dugout.

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National Anthem time. Even on cloudy days, like this one, the sun always seems to come out at this moment.

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Alvarez at third. He made a couple of fielding errors, but he’s a rook, so we’ll forgive him.

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Alvarez at the plate. He’s not the most patient hitter I’ve ever seen, but then again, it was his second pro game ever.

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I bought a funnel cake at this stand. I hadn’t had one since my grandparents took me to Silver Dollar City when I was a kid. I figured, if it’s good enough for the cop, it’s good enough for me. Of course, I ended up with powdered sugar all over my clothes when the chilly wind kicked up.

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With our apologies to Dippin’ Dots, Jack and I happen to believe that the simple sno-kone is the ice cream of the past, present, and future.

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Southpaw dancing on the dugout. We got a new appreciation for the dangers of mascotting when he slipped in a rain puddle and went down. But he was a trooper, and he finished his set.

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As night fell, it got colder, though the temperature never fell below 65 degrees. The wind was pretty cutting, though, so I bought jack a Hillcats-model blanket to cover up with. For those of you about to call social services, his lips were blue from the sno-kone, not the temperatures.

That’s our first trip. Very soon, I hope to make it to Salem, VA, where they’ve recently become affiliated with the Red Sox. They’ve stashed some great prospects there, including Ryan Kalish and Che-Hsuan Lin, and I want to get there before one of them is called up.

Franchise Switcheroos

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I spent a little time the other day cleaning up our team affiliations page. Teams switch organizations every year, so it’s a crucial maintenance task. A few have even changed locations. Here are a few of the notable changes.

The Gwinnett Braves – Atlanta pulled their triple-A franchise from Richmond, VA and moved it to the Atlanta suburbs. That makes it a short drive for anyone who gets called up, certainly. I’ve always wondered if the Bus Leagues version of the Braves can draw when it’s so easy to just head up the road to the majors. I guess we’ll find out. [Gwinnett Braves]

The Salem Red Sox/Lancaster JetHawks swap – The last time I took my family to Salem, they were called the Avalanche, and they were affiliated with the Houston Astros. The Red Sox were looking for an A-affiliate that was a lot closer to Boston than the Lancaster JetHawks, who are in the California League. So, they more or less swapped franchises with Houston, which is, according to my map, about half a continent closer to the west coast. [Salem Red Sox] [Lancaster JetHawks]

Bowling Green Hot Rods – Despite our enormous disappointment that the name Cave Shrimp was not chosen, this name makes sense (as far as auto-themed suggestions, we liked Will’s idea of Corvettes), due to the variety of automotive industry plants located in BG. The Rays A-level franchise was located in Columbus last year, when it was nicknamed the Catfish. [Bowling Green Hot Rods]

Charlotte Stone Crabs – Another relocation with name change for the super-hot Rays farm system. The last vestige of the team’s satanic nickname is gone, as the Vero Beach Devil Rays move to Port Charlotte, FL and become the High-A Stone Crabs. [Charlotte Stone Crabs]

Winston-Salem Dash – This team was formerly known as the Warthogs, a name I personally enjoyed. The White Sox affiliate is now known as the Dash, and chose a logo that has some scratching their heads. [Winston-Salem Dash]

Fort Wayne TinCaps – The Padres farm club decided to rename the former Wizards after building them a new ballpark. Meet the Johnny Appleseed-inspired TinCaps! [Fort Wayne TinCaps]

That may not cover absolutely everything that happened, but those were the ones that jumped out at me.

Minor League Merchandise at ESPN: the Magazine

As you may know, one of your intrepid Bus Leaguers has the good fortune to write a little for the ESPN: the Magazine website. This week, minor league merchandise managed to sneak onto the pages for the mouthpiece of the Worldwide Leader, and we wanted to share it with you:

Tina Gust is the Director of Licensing for Minor League Baseball. She has seen merchandise sales grow along with record-setting ballpark attendance over the past four years, as teams and retailers have paid close attention to what customers want. “Baseball fans and card collectors enjoy following young stars, hoping to catch a game or pick up the card of the next all-star shortstop or Cy Young award-winner.” she says

“Team operators are becoming more attuned to their fans’ merchandise needs—expanding the product selection to satisfy both casual and die-hard fans.” Minor league gear has shown up in on film, in music videos, and even on high-end retail shelves at Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue.

[ESPN: the Magazine]

Also quoted in the article is Bus Leagues contributor Will, who waxes nostalgic about the Brooklyn baseball scene.

Hope you enjoy!

In addition, Rick Reilly wrote a piece about minor leaguers who missed their shot because they refused to take steroids. Read it here.

This Week in Bobbleheads Part 12

The dog days of summer continue especially for the Brooklyn Cyclones this week! Here’s a look at the week ahead:

Cleveland Indians 8/11/08 Jhonny Peralta (Mini) – Fine Indians shortstop converts to miniature form.

Brooklyn Cyclones 8/11/08 Maverick The Wonder Dog (Mascot) – I wonder where they got this dog from? He doesn’t even participate in anything onfield, yet he’s a bobble.

Fort Myers Miracle 8/11/08 Presidential Bobble Election – Fans Vote – The final leg of the Election. Can Obama sweep?

Lowell Spinners 8/11/08Tom Glavine (300 Wins) – Special honor for this Billerica native.

Joliet Jackhammers 8/12/08 Jammer (Bobblebelly) (Mascot) – Lovable mascot will be a big favorite in Belly form

Trenton Thunder 8/13/08 Ian Kennedy – This time Ian flies solo in bobble form.

Casper Ghost 8/14/08 Tom Browning – Once pitched a perfect game in Cincinnati, he gets the honor here.

Clinton Lumberkings 8/15/08 Grady Sizemore – Another resin figure for Grady’s Ladies.

Grand Prairie Airhogs 8/15/08 Pete Incaviglia – “Inky” struts his stuff in the American Association.

Houston Astros 8/15/08 Milo Hamilton – HOF Broadcaster in his first solo bobble.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers 8/16/08 Kelly Pavlik (Boxer) – Local fave gets his due.

Orange County Flyers 8/16/08 James Denton (Desperate Housewives) – 2nd time that the team owner has had his own bobble.

Quad Cities River Bandits 8/16/08 Presidential Bobble Election – Fans Vote – Not part of the Goldklang group’s poll, but certainly makes a good add on.

San Angelo Colts 8/16/08 TBA – I will update this as soon as the team gives more info.

Southern Illinois Miners 8/16/08 Ralph Santana – Popular player coach on a team that last year featured Danny Almonte.

Brooklyn Cyclones 8/17/08 Carl Erskine – Former Brooklyn Dodger will be there for autographs as well.

Columbus Clippers 8/17/08 Brandon Watson – Had a 43 game hitting streak in the IL in 2007 breaking the mark of Jack Lelivelt who set the previous record in 1912.

Look back at every bobble giveaway and follow the future at http://thetruebobbleheadboard.yuku.com/