Baseball, Birthdays, Baxter, and Baltimore

There was a lot to look forward to at today’s game. It was the culmination of Interleague play for 2007 which just can’t come soon enough for my tastes. It is an opportunity for the Diamondbacks to make up some ground on their National League Western Division opponents who all had tough series finales. With the Diamondbacks having a share of the division lead, this was extremely exciting. And finally, it was an opportunity to celebrate a very special birthday. My daughter Tiffany would like to believe that it is her birthday that has everyone excited but unfortunately she is mistaken. The stadium is a buzz with the celebration of D. Baxter the Bobcat who is celebrating his 7th birthday during the game today. With all of these activities going on, it sometimes gets lost that there is actually a game being played on the field. One of the more common questions I get asked by people attending a game for the first time is, “what is up with having a cat as the mascot, how did that happen?”

When the Diamondbacks first became a franchise they didn’t have a mascot. In fact for the first two seasons of play the Diamondbacks survived without a fuzzy mammal entertaining the crowds between innings. In the beginning the Diamondbacks had gone an altogether different direction for fun in-game hosts. During the construction of Bank One Ballpark (BOB) the Arizona Diamondbacks ran a series of television ads featuring two dedicated fans that patiently waited for the completion of the ballpark and the commencement of play. These two fans were shown at different locations and at different activities. These two helped to build excitement towards opening day 1998. The names of the two characters were Drew and Byron. One was tall and thin the other slightly portly and shorter. They played well off each other and became a favorite of Phoenix residents. When the team finally took the field Drew and Byron were in attendance completing their quest to see baseball in Phoenix. None of the ads since that time captured the fun and excitement of going to a ball game. Their dedication to the team and the game was something I could relate too. Trina simply believes that there should be a club for obsessed fans like Drew, Byron, and me. I am not sure how I got lumped into this.

On June 23, 2000 the Arizona Diamondbacks introduced D. Baxter the Bobcat. The idea of a bobcat as the mascot was proposed by Brantley Bell, the 5 year-old son of infielder Jay Bell. He thought the Diamondbacks should use a bob-cat since they played at BOB. D. Baxter came from a play on words for D-backs. In yet another coincidence our family is somehow connected to this piece of Diamondbacks history. Prior to his unveiling the Diamondbacks and their web site began to offer clues to the name and species of their new mascot. As avid fans many of whom were children this was even more important than how the team was doing. Trina and the kids did a tremendous amount of research on mascots, animals indigenous to Arizona, and potential names. They would go to the Diamondbacks web site several times a day attempting to identify the new mascot. Trina would be triumphant in coming the closest. In fact, she hit it exactly with the name and species. As a result she won four tickets to the June 23, 2000 game when D. Baxter made his debut. Baxter came to the seats and had his picture taken with the family and made them part of the festivities. And while Dakota was only three at the time, he remembers that game vividly.

So when the Diamondbacks announced that they would be celebrating Baxter’s birthday at today’s game he had to attend. In a very real sense they have grown up together. The celebration consisted of several of Baxter’s mascot buddies flying in from out-of-town to attend the game. There was TC the Bear from the Minnesota Twins, Junction Jack the Rabbit from the Houston Astros, Gapper (I have no idea what he is) from the Cincinnati Reds, Stomper the Elephant from the Oakland Athletics, and Mr. Met the baseball head guy from the New York Mets. Big Red from the Arizona Cardinals and Howler from the Phoenix Coyotes were also in attendance. I gained a new appreciation for Baxter. It could have been a lot worse than an acrobatic cat.

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