Vegetables, presidents, and bacon, oh my!

For some reason over the years one thing that has become popular at baseball games is having mascots run a race between innings. The thing is, they aren’t your typical mascots running said races; you won’t see Screwball or Blooper the Hound Dog running around the field at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Instead you get to watch vegetables race each other to the finish line.

That’s right, vegetables. At each Fightin Phils home game Broccoli, Lettuce, Carrot, and Cauliflower race each other from right field around to third base. To make the race more exciting, the vegetables have to avoid Evil Candy, the peppermint-shaped villain who tries to ruin the race every night and has yet to be successful in doing so.

At the start of the race each night, the vegetables are each assigned a section of seats to represent in the race. Twenty fans from the winning section receive a free general admission ticket to a future game. The race gets the crowd excited and works to teach young fans an important lesson: “Vegetables are good, candy is bad. Eat more vegetables.”

The same cannot be said for the race held between innings at each Lehigh Valley IronPigs game. When you watch four different types of pork run around a ball field, it is hard to decide which is the healthiest option. Unlike the running vegetables, the four competitors in this race have names that tie into their specific form. Each night fans cheer as Hambone (ham), Diggity (hot dog), Barbie Q. (pork bbq), and Chris P. Bacon (bacon, of course) race around the field at Coca Cola Park.

While there is no villain attempting to mess up the race, Diggity has built up a reputation as a cheater while Hambone earns the fewest wins each season.

One mascot who understands how Hambone feels is Theodore Roosevelt, former U.S. president and one of four presidents to race around the field at every Washington Nationals’ home game. The Roosevelt mascot has continuously lost the race even after finally earning his first win in October 2012.

While I don’t fully understand the excitement of watching presidents or pieces of food running around a billfold, fans go crazy whenever the races take place. The vegetable race was such a crowd pleaser that the Fightins’ added the Small Food Race. In this race five lucky young fans don food costumes such as pizza, popcorn, and ice cream and race from right field all the way to first base.

Now I can understand why fans get excited about the small food race. There’s something about a small child running in a cheeseburger costume hat makes you smile. What I don’t understand is the excitement about watching four vegetables running around a field.

I don’t know about you, but I was not a fan of vegetables as a kid; especially carrots or cauliflower. I still don’t eat carrots or cauliflower. Most kids I know do not like to eat vegetables so why they get so excited about seeing them race and getting their autographs I don’t know.

If I had to guess, I would say the excitement comes from being at the game and a new event is taking place on the field. he fans get caught up in the excitement of the game and also get excited about the between innings entertainment.

Confessional: If you could pick any group of 4 or more mascots to run a race between innings, who/what would you pick? Why that group?

What was always exciting for me was watching the candy tackle one of the veggies each night. They all knew he would be coming, but they never knew who was getting taken down. There were even some nights when the vegetables would retaliate and get Evil Candy before he got one of them. Unfortunately there is not tackling of vegetables anymore – I’m assuming for safety reasons. Evil Candy is still part of the race though and he receives a fair share cheers and each night.

In the end I have decided that I will never truly understand the excitement about watching vegetables or presidents run around a baseball field. I’m sure when I was younger, I would have cheered just as loudly in the hope that my vegetable would win. Although I may not understand it, I will continue to enjoy watching the young fans cheer for their favorite vegetables while booing Evil Candy.

Mascot Mania

Have you ever seen a turtle playing the tambourine? Have you ever heard a duck sing?  While this may sound like the tagline for a new children’s movie, in reality it is what takes place every Saturday night in Baseballtown.  Every Saturday night during the season, the Reading Phillies Mascot Band performs live on the Weston Center Winning Smiles stage.  With Quack on lead vocals and guitar, Change-Up on percussion, Screwball on drums, Blooper on guitar, and Bucky on bass, the group never fails to entertain its young fans.

One of the most entertaining aspects of any sporting event is watching the mascot(s). People running around in fur costumes that come in all shapes and sizes for the sole purpose of entertaining the crowds.  There are animal mascots, human mascots, and mascots that are neither animal or human.  The job of a mascot is to move through the crowds during a game and interact with the fans.  Even if their team is losing, they must remain excited and entertaining for the spectators.

The Reading Phillies have six main mascots that appear each game.  They are Blooper the Hound Dog, Bucky the Beaver, Quack the Rubber Duck, Change-Up the Turtle, Screwball, and the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.  Throughout each game, these mascots do everything from dancing on the dugouts to signing autographs for young fans to throwing hot dogs into the crowd while riding an ostrich.  There are some days when fans may find it more entertaining to watch the mascots than the actual game.

I think the one thing about mascots that always catches me off guard is the fact that while the majority of young fans adore them, there are always a few who are absolutely terrified of them.  In the past eight seasons, I have seen a number of children start screaming, or crying, or trying to run away when they see a mascot.  Even if they are being held or are sitting in a stroller, the children will do whatever they can to escape.  I have also overheard numerous parents telling their children that there is no need to be scared, the large red creature with the baseball head only wants to say hi and get a high-five.  Needless to say, the situation does not usually get any better.

In the end, the mascots provide excellent entertainment for the younger baseball fans and will continue to create memories for many more seasons in Baseballtown.