Usually I am not a big fan of mascots at baseball games. In most cases they are an annoyance and add little or no value to the baseball experience. Sure there are exceptions such as the Philly Phanic or the San Diego Chicken (I am dating myself with that one) but most are just a pain to deal with (I,e., Digger the Dinosaur and Billy the Marlin)
So in 1999 when the Arizona Diamondbacks announced they would be unveiling a new mascot I just cringed at the thought of someone in a giant snake costume or something equally crazy. Instead the team introduced D. Baxter the Bobcat.
One of the first things fans from out of town ask me after “Where’s the swimming pool” is “Why do the Diamondbacks have a bobcat as their mascot?” Well the answer seemed a lot more logical when the stadium was call Bank One Ballpark. D. Baxter was short for D-backs and locals called the stadium BOB so you had BOB-cat. Yeah I know the response was a stretch but stay with me on this.
D. Baxter or Baxter for short is on his second iteration (so I guess he would be Baxter 2.0?). The first version was probably the most acrobatic mascot on the planet. He would repel from the roof of then Bank One Ballpark, he leapt from the dugout across walkways doing a handstand on the railings. It was impressive considering I can barely hold onto the railing when I walk let alone try to do a handstand on the thing.
Unfortunately the high-flying antics of Baxter 1.0 were cut short. Without going into a lot of details lets just say “high” was the operative word. The next season there was a new Baxter (2.0) who seemed to have a much different personality.
He seemed much less athletic or at least he had less acrobatic tendencies. Instead he seemed to have a much more playful personality. Baxter has kind of grown on me and I find myself chuckling at his antics and interactions in the stands with the fans and messing with the players in the dugout.
The Diamondbacks announced that they would celebrate Baxter’s birthday on June 5th I wondered how this would all play out. In years past the team has invited other MLB team mascots to help Baxter celebrate his birthday.
This year was a little more low key. There were other mascots but they were all local and included the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, the Arizona Cardinals Big Red (who surprisingly got the largest ovation from the fans), the Phoenix Mercury Scorch, and the Phoenix Coyotes Howler.
Add to this a group of local college mascots including Sparky from ASU, Thunder from GCU, a Lumberjack wearing what looked like oven mitts from NAU, and Artie the Fighting Artichoke from Scottsdale Community College.
Most of the game the mascots kept a low profile only being seen when it was time to throw T-shirts into the stands or sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Overall the birthday party went well and the kids loved Baxter wandering through the stands signing autographs and giving high-fives.
Maybe having a mascot at a baseball game isn’t as bad as I thought. At least Baxter is not leading the wave.