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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

This Year's Odyssey: The Best Mascots

Almost every team has some sort of mascot. Like everything, they vary in quality. The majority range from sad to bland to fun and exceptional. Here are the five mascots that made the biggest impression on me and the one I owe an apology.

1) Greensboro - The Bat Dogs: This was the most unique thing I saw in any stadium. The Grasshoppers had somebody in a pretty lame costume, but the real mascots were the dogs. When the home team was batting, the dogs chased down any balls which were dead in the plate area and they picked up bats after batters hit the ball.  Then they brought them straight back to the dugout. Between innings the dogs brought balls out to the home plate ump in a bucket. It was cool, different, fun, and the fans loved it. In fact, one of the dogs was retiring the weekend I was there and the people around me were quite sad about it. Heck, it's worth going to a Grasshoppers game just to see the bat dogs.

2) Louisville - Louisville's mascot is unique in that it is rather ugly. On the other hand, it is far outside the fur/feather generic costume and the costume is such that it allows far more movement than most. And the guy in the costume took full advantage of it. He bounced around like a madman for the entire game leading cheers, dancing on the dugouts, and making some truly lame entertainment which the Bats had scheduled for that day enjoyable. The mascot was manic and fun and those wings were flaring all around.

3) Burlington - Bingo is about as generic a mascot as you can find. It's an indeterminate orange blob with a ping-pong type head, huge eyes, and a home team uniform. It looks like a giant muppet. At first I didn't pay much attention, but it quickly became obvious that the B.Royals fans were nuts for him. I didn't get it until Bingo got up between innings and danced on the roofs of the dugouts. Lots of mascots dance, but this one was about a 9.5 out of 10. And the crowd was really into it. They love him and he worked the crowd the entire game. It's an example of starting with less and building a whole lot more.

Richmond - The Richmond Flying Squirrels have a terrible logo and name. Imagine my surprise when I got into the park and the coolest looking superhero squirrel came out. I don't remember him doing anything particularly impressive, but it was probably best costume I saw all Summer.

Jackson - The Generals' mascot is a bulldog lieutenant general. He didn't really do anything particularly spectacular, but it was one of the more impressive looking mascots and the entire game kids were chasing him and people were getting pics.

Toledo - The Mud Hens' mascot was above average, but that's not the reason I remember him. I had arrived at the game early and I had already bought and was wearing my hat (third favorite hat of the summer) while I sat in my seat watching warmups. The mascot was working the crowd and walked behind me without me knowing he was there. He reached down and patted me on the head. Surprised, I reacted on instinct and flung my arm back slugging the mascot. Thankfully, the costume was thick enough that the guy inside didn't even notice and he just kept walking. I've always felt a little regret about hitting the mascot, but, on the other hand, reaching down a hitting an unwary fan on the head probably isn't a good idea.

Weirdest Mascot Behavior: I won't name the particular team, but at one AAA game there was a group of fairly rough characters drinking it up. About halfway through the game they were well into their cups when I noticed that a woman in the group and the mascot interacting. I don't know who started it, but the mascot was making motions to her encouraging her to raise the front of her shirt and she was making the same motions back at him, although I never saw her actually flash him. This went on for several innings every time the mascot came back into the area until the woman left with her companions sometime late in the game. I've never seen anything like that in a game before or since (thankfully).

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