I love mascots. I am officially outing myself. And why shouldn’t I love mascots? They are fun. They’re like Michael Bay movies. They are entertaining. They are a good time, but they probably will never win an Oscar.
Who cares? Mascots are integral to the health and security of minor league baseball. In this 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. Have you checked out Skylands Park in Augusta, New Jersey, recently? Oh, that’s right. You can’t. The former home of the New Jersey Cardinals has been empty since 2010.
Mascots give your team brand identity. 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 minor league 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 is nothing but a glorified NCAA roster to the average fan.
After following Mascot Mania on MiLB in June, albeit maybe a bit too seriously, I thought it was time to give attention to great mascots not featured in the Sweet 16 or 64. I envisioned going from league to league, giving a humorous look and a bit of thanks to these unsung heroes.
I started with the New York – Penn League. The New York – Penn League (NYPL) is a minor league baseball league, operating in the northeastern United States. This Short-Season A league’s season starts in June. I originally hypnotized, that it was the constraints of its schedule that prevented its mascots from consideration in “Mascot Mania”. I was about to be proven wrong.
Upon early research, I thought I hit pay dirt. The Aberdeen IronBirds, the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees had great mascots that exuded personality and (more importantly) brand identity for each of the afforementioned teams. Then I came across Bubba Grape and C.T. Tiger, which seemed to be after thoughts for the Jamestown Jammers and the Connecticut Tigers respectively. Let’s not even go through the teams that forwent mascots all together.
Today, I came across the Hudson Valley Renegades who just confused me. Their website mentions nothing about a mascot; however, there’s a kids’ club called, “Little Rascal’s Kids Club.” I guess that corresponds to the fury mascot pictured in the headline.
At first, I thought he was the first baseman.
According to Wikipedia, not strongest source for news, the Renegades actually have an entire family of raccoon mascots, nowhere else to be found. There is Rookie, who is the actual Renegade. He has a wife, Rene Gade. They have a child, Rascal (I assume of kids club fame), and occasionally, Roofus, Rookie’s father and Rascal’s grandfather. Except for Rascal, I couldn’t find information to corroborate any of their heavily eye-lined existence.
I don’t mean to pick on the Hudson Valley Renegades. They are far from the only team not to capitalize on the importance of a mascot. Heck! When compared to the NYPL, they are the norm. I can now see why the NYPL was ignored in Mascot Mania. No creativity. No humor. No attention. In terms of Baseball’s future, you never know what you’re going to get with the NYPL. In terms of Mascots though, they are an epic fail.