Mascots help make baseball fun

April 5, 2012

They’ll make you laugh, encourage you to cheer and offer hugs and high-fives.

What fun it must be to be a team mascot, as your main job is to entertain the crowd and keep everyone smiling, even when the team is losing.

Baseball’s lovable local mascots are gearing up for a lively season, but being a furry, feathery or funny smilemaker isn’t as easy as it looks.

Pretend you’re a mascot for a minute:

You have to be in very good physical shape. Those cute costumes weigh 30 to 45 pounds. Imagine leading cheers, dancing on the roof of the home team’s dugout or running up and down stairs in the stands while wearing a huge head and oversize shoes. Now, imagine doing that during the hot, humid summer!

Your youngest fans might rub sticky, food-covered hands on you. Tough kids might punch you, thinking you’re just a cartoon character. Oops! Don’t bump into the guy carrying a big plate of food back to his seat!

The biggest challenge, though, is that you can’t talk or hum while working . . . ever! Mascots communicate only with their actions.

Ahhh, but hearing people excitedly calling your name as they smile at your antics makes everything else worthwhile.

Still, with baseball season getting underway this week, the Oriole Bird, the mascot for the Baltimore Orioles, wants kids to know that the big lovable creatures have feelings, too.

“It always surprises me when I hear an adult tell a child they should punch me or step on my foot or something like that. This is absolutely NOT the way to treat a mascot, or anyone for that matter,” the Bird told us in an e-mail. “Children should treat a mascot the way they would want to be treated.”

And with that always-wise advice, let’s meet some of baseball’s favorite mascots.

The Racing Presidents

Will Teddy ever win? That’s the big question fans ask during the fourth inning of every Washington Nationals game, when four very tall characters — George Washington, wearing No. 1; Thomas Jefferson, No. 3; Abraham Lincoln, No. 16; and Teddy Roosevelt, No. 26 — race to see who is the fastest. (Do you know why just those four race, and how each one got his uniform number? )

It’s not disrespectful to call these presidents by their first names.

In six years of racing, George, Abe and Tom have each won more than 100 times. Teddy has never won. He seems to get sidetracked easily, running to the sidelines to visit with fans. Sometimes he breaks the rules, like showing up at the race in a golf cart. Once, he rode a zip line from the stands to the field.

Teddy is the impulsive mischiefmaker in the group. George follows all the rules, Abe is very determined and Tom studies the course carefully.

(Answers to questions: These four are the presidents on Mount Rushmore, and their numbers correspond to their place in the lineup of U.S. presidents.)

Screech

The idea for this Washington Nationals mascot came from a fourth-grader in the District: Glenda Gutierrez, who was then 9 years old.

In April 2005, a huge egg wandered into center field during a Washington Nationals game. As curious fans watched, the egg trembled and cracked . . . and out popped a huge, roly-poly, happy-looking eagle!

Screech has cheered for the Nationals ever since and has slimmed down considerably — probably because of all the exercise he gets.

He judges the Presidents Race as the chief executives reach the finish line.

Screech’s favorite musical group is rock band called the Eagles, and his favorite song is “Fly Like an Eagle.”

And don’t forget about Uncle Slam, the mascot for the Potomac Nationals, a minor league team for the Nationals in Woodbridge.

Louie

Louie is the mascot for the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles’ minor league team that plays in Prince George’s County.

Louie is a lovable green furry “something” with pink hair. He isn’t sure what kind of a critter he is supposed to be, but Louie loves lime green Gatorade.

Louie really likes giving Yankees fans a hard time, sometimes grabbing their hats. His best friend is the Oriole Bird.

Louie will be celebrating his birthday at a Baysox game June 16 with his fans and some fellow mascots at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie.

The Oriole Bird

Yep, that’s his full name — or, as he insists, he is THE Bird.

Hatched on the field in front of thousands of Baltimore Orioles fans 33 years ago, this mischievous bird is full of energy. His favorite aerobic exercise is spelling out O-R-I-O-L-E-S with his body as he leads the crowd in a cheer for the team. Try it!

His big orange beak is just right for one of his favorite pranks: trying to take a bite out of fans’ hats. So, hold on to yours if you go to an Orioles game!

Pinch

Is it a crab? A relative of Cookie Monster? Some kind of space alien? No one knows, but Pinch is the big blue huggable mascot for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in Waldorf. This independent Atlantic League team is where young players can start working their way up to the major leagues.

Pinch lives in “Crabby Cove” and wears men’s size 20 shoes! He has very big feet.

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