Happy Birthday Baxter

There are two questions that consistently come up whenever I am attending an Arizona Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. What are the Diamondbacks doing to fix the broken bullpen? Why is the Diamondbacks mascot a bobcat?

The first question I have no answer and based upon the moves the Diamondbacks have made so far this season neither do they. As for the second question, I have a lot of answers to that.

When the Diamondbacks began play in 1998 they didn’t have a mascot per se. I say that because the Diamondbacks had a spokesman, actually there were two of them, who were looked upon as unofficial mascots.

They went by the names Drew and Bryon. They came about as part of an early marketing campaign by the Diamondbacks that started shortly after ground was broken on then Bank One Ballpark. Drew and Byron were featured in television commercials where they were dressed in Diamondbacks jerseys and sported lawn chairs sitting outside the construction site waiting for tickets to go on sale for the Inaugural season.

Drew and Byron became instant hits and represented the countless fans eager to see baseball come to the Arizona desert. When the team finally began play in 1998, Drew and Bryon made a few appearances at the stadium to show that they had finally gotten the tickets they had been waiting for. By the end of the 1998 season Drew and Byron were gone never to be seen again in either marketing campaigns or at the ballpark.

After going the next two season without a mascot, the Diamondbacks decided they needed a character to interact with the fans during the game. The story goes that Jay Bell’s son suggested the name D. Baxter as a play on team name D-backs.

The bobcat character had a couple of reasons for being. First Bank One Ballpark was called the BOB by local fans so it seemed natural that a bobcat would hang around the field. The other reason was that a bobcat represented a big cat indigenous to the state of Arizona further connecting the team to the state.

On June 23, 2000 D. Baxter made his debut at Bank One Ballpark. In the weeks leading up to his introduction the Diamondbacks held a contest to guess the name and character that would become the mascot. Fans were invited to go online and make guesses. The winner would receive four tickets to the June 23 game, dinner at Slider’s on the concourse, and a personal visit from D. Baxter.

Through the years D. Baxter has seen his name shortened to Baxter and the bobcat has less meaning since the stadium has changed its name from Bank One Ballpark to Chase Field. Despite all of this Baxter has become a part of Diamondbacks lore.

Each year the Diamondbacks select a day in mid-June to celebrate Baxter’s birthday. They invite several of Baxter’s mascot friends to join him at the game and they serve birthday cupcakes to the children in the upper deck Sandlot area.

Sometimes you get well known mascots attending Baxter’s birthday party such as the Philly Phanatic, Dinger from Colorado, the San Diego Friar, and Oakland’s Stomper Ele Phant. This year the party was made up of mascots from around the valley.

The Redbird from the Cardinals, the Suns Gorilla, and Scorch the freaky purple mascot for the Phoenix Mercury all attended along with several mascots from the area colleges. The mascot gang wanders around the stadium bringing smiles to children’s faces and abusing the opposing team’s fans.

Although mascots are not generally associated with baseball other than a distinct few classics such as the Chicken and the Phanatic; I have learned to accept them as a way to keep fans involved in the game. I’ve even warmed up to Baxter and find some of his antics rather funny. So next time you happen to be at the ballpark stop and say hi to Baxter and wish him a happy birthday.

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