Thursday, June 26, 2014

Minor League Mascot Memories, Part 2

Spikes (me) and the original Rochester Knigthhawks Indoor Lacrosse team mascot
(Laxcalibur?) during one of the Rochester Red Wings Mascot Days. (7/17/2001)
Last November, when I began cleaning out our attic in an effort to collect some things to take to the Volunteers of America, I unearthed old work binders, folders, and loose pay stubs that prompted me to begin writing about My Past Life As A Professional Mascot, Part 1. As you may recall from that post, I fell into the mascoting game, and eventually performed as our local Triple A baseball team's mascot for 3+ years, including off-season appearances in parades, award ceremonies, festivals, conventions and the like. As I gained experience (and confidence), the management was kind enough to offer me the better gigs and permit me to be slightly selective. At the time, my kids were still very young, but the money and "benefits" (such as getting the kids into the games, bringing them with me to appearances, and getting them on the field, were more than worth it.

Jordyn and Jack helping on the field during the seventh inning stretch.
Now that summer is upon us (and I have yet to finish my attic-cleaning), I am once again digging through old records and files and have happened upon some photographs which have jogged up some old memories from my mascoting days. Sadly, the late 1990s-early 2000s were not a time during which cellphones with photographic capabilities were commonly, and other than some pictures my daughter who was about 11 at the time took while accompanying me to appearances, or at games. There were also some very kind ushers who also snapped one or two great pics of my kids. The only picture I have from beneath the stadium is the one above with an usher. I had a locker in the Rochester Raging Rhino's locker room, which was also where the usher's would meet prior to games.

Spikes and Bob, one of the incredibly helpful ushers at Frontier Field.
This pic was taken by one of the very best, Heather N. 
Sadly, I have a terrible memory for names, and other than Heather and Bob (above), most of them have been lost to me. When I do go to a game (usually once or twice a year), it is good to see that many of them are still working there delivering such excellent support to the local minor league baseball fan. As an employee, at the time I do recall each of them being incredibly friendly and helpful to me during my time there. While I would be assigned an intern as a "handler" during most games, more than once it was the ushers who came to my rescue during equipment malfunctions or troublesome fans (of which there were maybe two in 3+ years). The Rochester Red Wing fans, especially season ticket holders, were incredible to work for.

Clash of the Titanic Birds: Spikes and an older version of Ellsworth Eagle at the opening
of SUNY Brockport's new baseball facilities in 2001. Pic by Jordyn N. (7/14/2001)
During my time with the Red Wings, I also had a number of opportunities to work with Ellsworth Eagle, the then official mascot of SUNY Brockport. Having completed two degrees (Bachelors and Masters) from the school, it was kind of cool to be there during the christening of their new baseball "stadium." Having my daughter there acting as photographer was really fun, too.

Spikes at the Ten Ugly Men Festival then held at Ellison Park. (8/7/2001)
Regrettably, I was never much of a networker so most of my time at events such as this was not spent developing relationships with the other performers. I also had no sales role in the organization, as is now common with many professional mascots nowadays, so I was able to interact professionally with those who had requested the appearance to insure that I did has they expected without the need to "glad hand" with an intent of potentially extending the nature (advertising, etc.) of the relationship. I was proud to receive positive feedback following appearances and the organization was very supportive and complimentary of my efforts. I took my role as Spikes seriously and committed to delivering good performances for the primary audience, the kids (and young at heart) in attendance.

Looking back over 10 years later, the design for the Red Wings Spikes has remained pretty much the way it was when I had the role, while both Laxcalibur and Ellsworth have undergone fairly significant design changes. There is something to be said for a well-designed and performed character, and I am proud to have been a small part of Spikes' (and his female counterpart, Mittsy who was introduced during my final season) success.

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