Photos and stories by Gordy Jones
Paul for Ball in St. Paul!
I am fortunate enough to have known and made friends with people who are actual baseball Hall of Famers.
Once a person’s inducted, his life is never again the same as it was. Because the chances are so minute that a ballplayer will make it that far, Hall of famers find huge demands for their time. There are hundreds of worthwhile activities: some charitable, some that are good for baseball, and some that are profitable for the HOF member.
One of Paul Molitors choices has been a golf outing, the Paul Molitor Classic, which was held at Brackett’s Crossing last week, with proceeds to benefit amateur baseball in St Paul. I asked Paul why he chose this event. “There are a lot of really, really, good things and ways for people to give back. I think the Twins organization does very well with their Community Fund. But for me, the fields in St. Paul are where my dreams began. That’s where I first dreamed about becoming a major league ballplayer. The Friends of St. Paul Baseball has raised a lot of money over the years to preserve these fields. They keep the facilities up to proper standards and give all young people a chance to play. When they asked me to come on board last year and be part of this event, I wasthrilled. You know, I had a lot of fun today, but my golf wasn’t too pretty. There were a lot of smiles today, and we had a good turnout. But, I’d like for this event to grow in small steps,
maybe in sponsorships and participation. We’re ahead of last year, but I’m looking to make this a little bit bigger and better, and raise more money for the kids!
The Bear Facts
I arrived early to a recent Twins charity event, and found myself standing and waiting to get in right next to TC Bear. “What a marvelous opportunity for a unique interview!” I said out loud. TC looked at me and shrugged. That’s when I remembered TC can’t talk. I must have looked upset, because one of his attendants approached me, holding what she called a magical microphone. She told me to ask T.C. anything, and the microphone would translate, and make me fluent in bear talk.
My first question was: “How did you get such a sweet gig?” He replied: “The Twins actually had an audition for a mascot back in March of 2000. There were eight of us who tried out. They brought in some kids and adults, and they had us perform in front of them. We could bring in our own music and props, and apparently what I did was what they were looking for.”
Besides running, dancing and jumping around, T.C. participates in several home run-hitting contests and usually wins. I asked him what his athletic background was. He laughed while he said, “A lot of slow-pitch softball. I played baseball in high school, but mostly, a lot of slow-pitch. Fans get a kick out of that. They’ve had a mascot hitting competition at the All-Star Games for the past 10 years. We hit little Nerf balls off of tees.”
I asked him what his favorite part of being a mascot is. He said, “Out of all of the things I do, the interaction with the kids is what I like the best. Being able to take a kid, especially a little one who is at first frightened of you, and to spend a little time with them and get them to smile, and by the end of the interaction they’re hugging you — that makes you feel pretty good. For me, my favorite thing to do is to put smiles on the faces of the young…and the old! It’s very rewarding. I really enjoy what I do. It’s a lot of fun.”
I remarked: “For being a bear, you sure get around.” He chuckled and said, “Yeah, they keep me quite busy. I go to the All-Star Game every year with other mascots, and we work at events leading up to the game itself. I’ve been to other cities at mascot birthday parties, too. It’s a great way to see the country.” I was curious if he is friends with other mascots, and whether they keep in touch. “Yes,” was his answer. “We have a nice little group. We keep in touch through emails and phone calls, and like I said, once a year we all get together and it turns into a party. I have made some great friends. You know, our teams are rivals (Twins and the Brewers), but Bernie Brewer is one of my best mascot friends, and he’s a good guy. So is the San Diego Swinging Friar. Wally from the Red Sox is a close friend, too; we
share our spring training home in Florida. Those are my top three mascot buddies.”
I mentioned that I thought the Swinging Friar had a strange, dazed expression on his face and T.C. said, “I was with the Friar yesterday at a birthday party in Cleveland, and a kid from the stands called him Gargamel, a character from the Smurfs,” and then he laughed a jolly laugh and said: “It was quite humorous.” I said, “You sound so happy — but, you’re a bear, and I’ve never heard you growl.” His instant reply was: “I’ve never had to.”
T.C. went on to tell me that he hibernates every year after the World Series, but they wake him in January for the Twins’ Caravan, and then there’s Twins Fest, followed by spring training.
At that point, the charity event was about to begin. T.C. had heard that on the appetizer buffet they had his second-favorite food: salmon (he said his favorite is Honey Nut Cheerios). Soon TC Bear’s tummy was full, and he was again silent, and doing what he does best: making people smile.