Antics, dance moves, high-fours: Being a mitt-headed mascot is great

Noa Cunningham, 13, of Grand Junction gets a big hug from Mr. JUCO, aka feature writer Rachel Sauer, in the center field stands. Fellow features writer Melinda Mawdsley, the Sidekick, watches during Thursday’s afternoon game at Suplizio Field.



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Noa Cunningham, 13, of Grand Junction gets a big hug from Mr. JUCO, aka feature writer Rachel Sauer, in the center field stands. Fellow features writer Melinda Mawdsley, the Sidekick, watches during Thursday’s afternoon game at Suplizio Field.

Daily Sentinel reporters Rachel Sauer, in Mr. JUCO costume, and Melinda Mawdsley, the Sidekick, greet children Thursday under the bleachers at Suplizio Field.



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Daily Sentinel reporters Rachel Sauer, in Mr. JUCO costume, and Melinda Mawdsley, the Sidekick, greet children Thursday under the bleachers at Suplizio Field.

Just so you know, I was grinning like a lunatic inside that enormous baseball mitt head. When kids wanted their picture taken with Mr. JUCO, I smiled even bigger: Cheese! Super cheese!

Nobody could see, of course. Mr. JUCO has a perma-smile on his exuberant baseball face, and that should have been enough, but behind the mesh panel through which I was peering — placed helpfully in his smile — there was plenty to grin about:

1. I was delivering high-four after high four, because Mr. JUCO has four fingers on each hand. It was my Looney Tunes dream come true.

2. I could bust out all my most embarrassing dance moves and nobody knew it was me!

3. I had a giant baseball mitt for a head.

Yes, at Thursday’s JUCO games, I was the iconic mascot, allowed this honor because I’m tall and the costume is made for tall people, and because I begged. Fellow features writer Melinda Mawdsley was my sidekick, who I thought should be named Shenanigans but I’m not sure Melinda ever entirely agreed to it, allowed this honor because nobody stopped us.

Celebrating his sixth birthday this year, Mr. JUCO is the baseball uniform-wearing, smiling, mitt-headed (baseball) face of the annual tournament. He is a jolly joy to behold, and he even has an agent! This year, it was recent Colorado Mesa University graduate Jessica Casebolt (and a note to anyone in the sports management field with an emphasis on entertainment: She’s available and exceptional. Please hire her.).

Jessica was in charge of hauling the costume around and guiding Mr. JUCO where he needed to be — on the field, mingling with fans under the bleachers, greeting people at the gate and just generally not walking into walls or poles. It’s not always easy to see in that outfit.

So, it was Jessica who good-naturedly agreed when I asked please, oh please, may I be the mascot and may Melinda be Mr. JUCO’s sidekick? “Mascotry” is something I’ve always wanted to try. I mean, I’m a low- to midlevel sports fan (Melinda’s high-level), but mascots! Great costumes, zany antics, free admission! Plus, carte blanche to dance around and go a little off the rails and walk silly without fear of ... I don’t know what, exactly. I just wanted to wear a giant head.

Melinda borrowed a jersey from sports writer Patti Arnold and found baseball pants at Goodwill, and we painted her face like a baseball in the bathroom at work. After an entertaining trip through the drive-up at Burger King, we presented ourselves to Jessica at the side of her car.

“You’re sure you want to do this?” Jessica gently inquired before the 3 p.m. game Thursday.

I observed that she asked this while shoving ice packs into the blue vest that would be my base layer.

A helpful Q&A:

Q: Just exactly how hot is it inside the Mr. JUCO costume?

A: Car-parked-in-the-sun-in-July hot. Sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God hot.

Q: Is this because it’s a four-layer costume, and three of the layers are quite thick?

A: It also didn’t help that I’m extremely warm-blooded.

Q: Did Jessica warn you Wednesday night, and suggest that the afternoon game might be a little ... toasty?

A:

Q: Well?

A: Thbbbbbtttt.

It is a cunningly designed costume, actually, and once I was strapped into Mr. JUCO’S huge feet and secured the chin strap on the baseball mitt head, I actually felt like Mr. JUCO. Mascots aren’t supposed to talk, and I didn’t want to. Instead, I wanted to convey everything through gestures so exuberant they were on the ragged edge of mental.

High-four, security guard! Double thumbs-up, wandering pack of youths! You’d like a hug, cutest little boy in the world? I will give you a squeeze to end all squeezes! Give me eight up high, cutest little boy in the world’s dad!

I did a little soft shoe, or what I thought was a soft shoe; there’s a chance it looked like I was trying to stomp out a small weed fire.

Shenanigans stood calmly nearby, saying “Hi” and welcoming people to the game.

People were happy to see Mr. JUCO and Shenanigans. That benevolence could have been due to the perfect spring brightness of the day or the hot-dog-and-sunflower-seeds love of baseball, or just that baseball players with giant mitt heads are funny.

Whatever the case, children wanted to hug Mr. JUCO and people wanted their picture taken with him. And as for the youths who figured they were too cool for a high-four, I had no problem chasing them down and insisting. Nobody is too cool for a high-four. I tossed a few baseballs and learned the complicated handshake taught to me by a group of little boys thrilled to be hanging with Mr. JUCO.

Shenanigans and I bounded into the stands — or walked carefully, rather, on account of Mr. JUCO’s feet are huge and that costume is heavy — where Mr. JUCO’s escapades knew no bounds: pretending to eat the french fry offered him by a small boy, sitting directly in front of kids and “unintentionally” blocking their view, making teenagers skooch over and over and over, yet still sitting directly next to them anyway.

Oh, it is to laugh! Stop, Mr. JUCO!

Shenanigans’ and my only regret was that we hadn’t worked out a dance routine in advance for when Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” played. That would have been stupendous.

And speaking of dancing, Jessica’s only advice for the 7:30 p.m. game was to remember that Mr. JUCO probably wouldn’t dance with a little hip wiggle.

Ohhhh, right, right, right. Mr. JUCO. Masculine. I pondered how to convey manliness and tried adding a little ungh to my usual swagger. It seemed like I was accommodating a tragic case of rickets. Hold my arms a certain way? They looked like unbendable Barbie arms. Stand legs apart? I couldn’t figure it out, and I couldn’t ask Shenanigans. I settled on not talking about my feelings and seeming like I could fix a transmission.

But once we got to bound onto the field, I stopped worrying about it at all. Mr. JUCO’s role is to get the crowd excited, to unite the packed stands in the mutual love of baseball, so to me that meant running in circles and jumping up and down and enormous arm waving and spirit fingers with a side of jazz hands. High fours for the Lions Club members who took the field! High fours for the student athletes who came out, too! High kicks! Some sort of weird, deranged cheerleader move!

I’m aggrieved to report that I presented a very, very sweaty uniform to the usual Mr. JUCO, a delightful CMU student named Harrison, after Thursday night’s opening ceremonies. I consoled myself with the thought that it would have been even sweatier if I’d managed to figure out a way to do a cartwheel, but alas, I couldn’t. Mr. JUCO’s head is too big.

And as Shenanigans, with her face still painted, and I wandered under the bleachers post-mascot time, gobbling funnel cake and nachos, I had to fight the urge to hug children and high-five everyone.

Or high-four, rather. It’s the Mr. JUCO way.

Read features writer Melinda Mawdsley’s take on tagging along as the sidekick of Mr. JUCO at Rachel Sauer and Melinda’s Breakfast for Dinner blog at gjsentinel.com/blogs/breakfast_for_dinner.



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