MLB Power Rankings: 25 Craziest Mascots Throughout the Minors
The first thing to know about minor-league baseball is this: it's not about baseball. Sure, the leagues are training grounds for an organization's future assets, but the decisions that determine success from the player development perspective are made exclusively by big-league front offices.
A minor-league GM is a savvy businessman, not a baseball man. Teams set as their utmost objective, not winning titles or churning out talent, but packing ballparks and building relationships with fans and local sponsors. Baseball at that level is meant to be fun for even those who do not know or understand the finer aspects of the game.
Yet fans do not pay top dollar to see minor-league games, and the ballparks in which games are played generally hold fewer than 10,000 spectators. Exploding scoreboards, luxury suites and major giveaways are not an option on minor-league budgets.
Therefore, teams use more old-fashioned methods to build excitement. Creative promotions, t-shirt cannons and bratwurst catapults are more common than in big-league parks. So, too, are mascots.
Mascots are virtually passe in the majors. Other than some of the long-time fixtures like the Philly Phanatic and San Diego Chicken, it's rare to find them working the crowds of 40,000 and up.
But in the bushes, mascots are often the heart and soul of a franchise. And some teams get really wacky when choosing them. Here are the 25 craziest mascots in the minor leagues.
1. Bernie, Inland Empire 66ers
The Angels' High-A affiliate mascot looks crazy enough to merit placement on this list: He seems to have acne, colors collide everywhere and his jersey is unkempt.
But it's most fun to acknowledge that Bernie is also, by all appearances, a hobo, an old-fashioned traveler along Route 66, spoon and cooking utensils in hand.
2. Hootz and Holly, Orem Owlz
Arguably the coolest mascots in the game by raw appearance, Hootz and Holly are owls with baseballs for heads.
They also got married, which is hilarious and fun, and the team-wide commitment to the overuse of the letter 'Z' rounds out the whimsy.
3. Nutzy, Richmond Flying Squirrels
The 'Z' is a bit of a nonsequitur this time, but Nutzy still catches plenty of attention. It's easy enough to see where the idea came from: Flying squirrel? Squirrels can't fly. Well, maybe it's a superhero squirrel.
Here's what makes Nutzy extra outlandish and funny: Why is the uniform so snug? And what necessitates the fake physique? This is one scary squirrel, man.
4. Ms. BC Roll, Mr. Kappa Maki and Chef Wasabi, Vancouver Canadians
Yes. Those are racing sushi rolls. And the best part is that Ms. BC and Mr. Maki collude on a regular basis against Chef (far right in the photo), who has won just once in 38 races entering this season.
Mad props also to the Vancouver franchise for spelling Canadians more properly than certain other pro sports endeavors.
5. Boomer, Yakima Bears
A half-dozen or so mascots throughout the minors take the sobriquet Boomer, but none booms quite as true as this one.
Boomer the Bear is hard to miss around the ballpark, and as fun and inviting as he must seem to little kids, it's hard not to wonder if his obesity sends the wrong message to younger fans.
6. Woolie, Hagerstown Suns
With one tooth and no clue, Woolie is an example of minor-league mascots at their goofiest.
The utter dereliction of design duties in favor of whatever will look silly enough to make kids laugh is a common downfall for mascoteers (mascotistas?) everywhere.
Woolie looks preposterous, but then, what fun is a tasteful, elegant mascot?
7. Johnny, Fort Wayne TinCaps
Modeled after Johnny Appleseed, the TinCaps' mascot dons the metal pot on his head and hams it up.
Johnny has been noted as one of the cleverest mascots when it comes to communicating non-verbally with fans at the park.
8. Big Lug, Lansing Lugnuts
As confusing as Woolie, but a bit more sensible, the Big Lug looks like Barney's addict brother. The lugnut nostrils are a nice touch.
9. FeRROUS and FeFe, Lehigh Valley IronPigs
FeRROUS, center, is not especially piggish in appearance, but both characters are iron-colored, and the names (Fe being the chemical symbol for iron) are both clever and educational. You know, for the kids.
10. Thunder, Jackpot, Grounds Crew Gorilla, Rally Cop and Hamlet, Lake Elsinore
Depth wins championships, and no minor-league club in baseball has a deeper roster of crazy mascots than the Lake Elsinore Storm.
Thunder, pictured, is a dog, they say, and works the crowd during games, but Jackpot makes it his job to dance after every Storm run.
The gorilla's specialty is exactly what you'd expect, and the rally cop is what he is, too. No costume for the last of these.
11. Bubba Grape, Jamestown Jammers
How to express the cachet of Bubba Grape? My own words will never be sufficient. My soul is all prose. From the official Web site of the Jammers, then:
A friend to all
Who loves to play ball.
"Baseball is Grape"
And so is this ape!
Purple from birth,
Causing much mirth!
He's called Bubba Grape,
The Baseball Ape!
12. Archie, Reno Aces
His shape vaguely evokes Grimace, of McDonald's fame, but Archie is red, and has that oddly realistic mouth.
Not sure what they're going for here, but the big old tongue actually moves sometimes. This may be the creepiest mascot going.
13. Big Mo, Montgomery Biscuits
Big Mo is not to be confused with Uncle Mo', although maybe he helps change game momentum every now and then.
Most of the time, though, he is what the Biscuits call "a biscuit-loving beast," complete with a mouth in which he could pile up 10 or 12 biscuits.
14. Webbly, Everett AquaSox
Webbly is an athlete in disguise as a mascot. Long and lanky, he moves with grace during on-field promotions, which is all wrong in terms of effect on the audience but makes the promotions less clunky and halting.
He looks a little like a 1990s comic-book hero, though.
15. Riptide, Norfolk Tides
I'm a sucker for baseball noses. Riptide is also hell on wheels, streaking around the field on occasion at the helm of a four-wheeler. It seems dangerous, but it sure is fun.
16. Boomer and Strike, Trenton Thunder
These two are perfect together, which makes it strange to think that Strike came along about five years after Boomer got his start with the team.
They're a clever, well-coordinated pair, but they still cause trouble.
17. Abner, Auburn Doubledays
The ghostly pallor of the Doubledays' pseudo-historical mascot sets those who know his namesake a bit on edge.
What drew the Doubledays so strongly to this apocrypha is hard to say. Except, of course, that they play very near the alleged birthplace of the game.
18. Rascal and Grrrounder, Harrisburg Senators
Marketing Guy 1: Hey, Jeff, have you drawn up a mascot for the Senators yet?
Jeff: Yeah, I've got this TeleTubby-looking thing in blue and red. Might name him Rascal.
Guy 1: What are you talking about? That has nothing to do with Senators or Harrisburg.
Jeff: Fine, then. You do better.
Guy 1: Already have. Meet Grrrounder. He's a dog. A plain brown dog.
Jeff: How is that more relevant?
Guy 1: (sighs) You have no vision.
I mean, seriously. Utterly out of left field. Not that they aren't fun.
19. Rookie the Renegade and Rene Gade, Hudson Valley Renegades
If you have a favorite minor-league squad, and if that team has a mascot, check out their website and read up on the mascot.
There's always a hackneyed and overwrought but still entertaining back story there. This one is remarkably involved.
In June 1994, Rookie the Renegade finally got up the courage to ask out Rene Gade at the ballpark. Two years later, via a plane trailing a banner, he proposed to her.
On July 20, 2007, in a sellout centered mostly around them, Rookie and Rene got married. That's fantastic.
20. Rascal the River Bandit, Quad Cities River Bandits
Rascal is one of those front-and-center mascots that are versatile and with whom fans form a strong bond.
He dresses, generally, like a slightly classier update of a pirate, and occasionally pretends to kidnap passing patrons. It's dicey, but it's fun.
21. Louie the LumberKing, Clinton LumberKings
Louie looks vaguely ethnic, but not so much that anyone could put their finger on it long enough to get offended.
His huge grin is a bit off-putting, but he is terrific at firing up the crowd, flag in hand.
22. Spike, Round Rock Express
Spike apparently conducts the Express, in full old-fashioned train conductor regalia.
He dons overalls and a denim cap, but how a dog ever learned to drive a train, they do not say.
23. Boomer, Williamsport Crosscutters
This concludes the Boomer portion of the rankings, but with a bang: Boomer of Williamsport looks totally imbalanced, especially given the crazy eyes.
He's also a bit selfish, really, to be using the umbrella while fans surely get wet.
24. Sluggo, Eugene Emeralds
If I were running the Emeralds, I might have Sluggo here run around through the stands as much as possible, just to draw the eye of opponents: He certainly has the color for it.
Streaking around the stadium during inning breaks, Sluggo looks like the swamp thing, which is surely exactly what they're going for.
25. Buster T. Bison, Buffalo Bisons
Of the dying art of mascot intimidation, Buster is perhaps the best remaining practitioner.
He's got the tools in the tool box to set opponents ill at ease and inspire some good old enmity between teams.
That helps him fire up the crowd at key moments.