Why are mascots important to minor league baseball? In the current economy, you would think a budget-friendly version of our national pastime could stand on its own. Let’s face it though. There’s a lot of competition for our entertainment time and dollars. With rosters full of “Who are you?” and “Didn’t you used to be?” there are more empty ballparks and folded franchises than we care to admit to.
Mascots give your team brand identity, and if your first baseman isn’t making the SportsCenter highlights, you frankly need all the identity you can get. Why do you think NFL teams have cheerleading squads? Brand identity keeps people coming to the ballpark, even when the team actively works against it. As a former mascot wrangler myself, mascots are unsung heroes especially in independent baseball. Mascots are the hook that get people into the game and keep them returning, until an investment is born in the team They might look juvenile, but without them, your professional baseball team becomes a glorified NCAA roster.
The Newark Bears of Newark, New Jersey, are a member of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball. The Newark Bears have made several appearances throughout the history of professional baseball in New Jersey. Since this current inception of the Bears came on the scene in 1998 as a member of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, a mascot has existed in someway shape or form.
Unlike the Phillie Phanatic, a universally agreed gold standard of brand identity and mascot-ry (Yeah! I know that’s not a word but you get the point), the Newark Bears have always had mascots that at best have fallen flat. The Newark Bears’ current official mascots are odd anthropomorphic bears. Bears? I know, who saw that coming.
The Newark Bears premiered a female mascot a couple of years back and no one was more excited than me. Effa, wearing the team’s home jersey, is named after Effa Manley, the first woman to successfully own and operate a professional baseball team. Oh, and did I mention, this former owner of the Newark Eagles is the only female member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame? She’s a real member too…plaque and all…none of that “A League of Their Own” jazz.
Feminist tendencies exploding, I was ready for the most amazing representation of Girl Power since Geri Halliwell. What I got was a bear with Katy Perry lashes and a feathery bow in her hair. Newsflash to the baseball novice who designed Effa, the real Ms. Manley would have been caught dead in a bow. She conveys nothing of Newark’s rich baseball past or its winning history. She’s totally ambiguous, unremarkable and definitely wouldn’t inspire me to get more into the game as a kid.
I give the Bears credit for getting into the mascot game. I also give them props for attempting to appeal to the female baseball fan. Nonetheless, Effa falls flat and is in desperate need of a makeover. Bring on the substance and leave the bows to Hello Kitty.