Friday, May 4, 2012

Flashback Friday: Diamond the Mascot


By
Image courtesy of HF Boards
As Blue Jays fans, I think there's a soft spot in all of our hearts for a Blue Jays mascot. Whether it's BJ Birdy, Domer, Ace, or Diamond, perhaps the reason why we look back on these mascots so affectionately is because they remind us of a simpler time; our childhood.

As an adult, it might seem silly to admit you enjoy the antics of a costumed bird, but as a young fan, I think mascots help pave that gateway to fandom. Often times, people can link their early memories to a mascot, simply because they're so cheerful, colourful and accessible. 

But much like your favourite Blue Jays who might get traded away, mascots are vulnerable to moving on as well. After plenty of time away from the game, one such mascot is speaking for the first time in several years.

If you've ever wondered what happened to Diamond after all these years, you finally have an answer. For this week's Flashback Friday, I was fortunate enough to speak to Angelina M., or more fondly known to Blue Jays fans as Diamond the mascot.

For many years, Diamond was the better half of the current Blue Jays mascot Ace, and Angelina had the distinction of being the very first female mascot in Major League Baseball history (unless you count Mrs. Met).

She was gracious enough to answer some questions about her history as Diamond, what it was like to be a mascot for the Toronto Blue Jays, and of course her thoughts on being a successor to BJ Birdy.

1.) First of all, how did you land the job as Diamond?
To land the role of Diamond, I had to audition for it. There were three major components to the audition - a dance sequence, an acrobatic sequence, and an improv sequence.

In the end, I think management was trying to find someone who could be larger than life, who could maintain the crowd’s interest and who had enough personality to stand next to Ace without being overshadowed.

Thankfully, with my gymnastics and counseling backgrounds, they saw what they wanted in me for the role of Diamond.
2.) What was it like to be the first female mascot in Toronto Blue Jays history (and the only female mascot in Major League Baseball at the time)?
It was absolutely amazing! The costume designers did such a great job at creating this super sassy, ultra hip character that it was quite easy for me to bring her to life.

Diamond was a bit a of a tomboy, had the attitude of “what you can do, I can do better” and she always had this playful youthfulness to her. She was a character women, young and old, could identify with in a predominantly male sport and she quickly became “one of the guys” with the male audience.

Diamond stood for many things and pushed the envelope on many fronts in Major League Baseball and I am very proud I had the privilege of participating in that magical experience.
3.) How long did you perform as Diamond - and was it always you, or did you ever have anyone else fill in?
My stint as Diamond was for the 2000 season only as I returned to school full time that September. Up until the end of July, I was the only individual to perform as Diamond that year.
4.) What was a typical day like as Diamond? (a rundown of the day's events)
The day in the life of Diamond was usually quite eventful. If we weren’t participating in a charity event or corporate function, Ace and I would be out and about for pre-game interactions with fans at the gates, on the concourse and even on the field.

We started each game by assisting with the first pitch, posing for pictures and signing a few autographs. Once the game was rolling, we’d make our rounds to each level working our way up with quick Skybox visits in between.

During the third inning we would launch t-shirts into the crowd off of the dugout, in the fifth inning we’d tag along with the grounds crew to tidy the bases and for the seventh inning, we’d run out onto the field to participate in leading the stretch.

Throughout the game, we’d dance on the dugouts during pitching changes or game breaks, joke around with fans, and assist with any trivia contests or announcements.

After weekend games, Ace and I would run the bases with children, hand out souvenirs, pose for family portraits, sign our rookie cards and help create an amazing experience for each kid.
5.) You had the tough task of taking over for a mascot (BJ Birdy) that was a staple of the franchise for 20 years. Did you find it was a difficult transition, and did fans give you a hard time?
Oh, BJ Birdy. Fans loved him and rightfully so. I grew up watching BJ Birdy too, you know. Change can be a difficult thing for some people to grapple with but it is a part of life and is inevitable.

I think it is during these changes that people grow and discover what it is they’re really made of. At the time, the Blue Jays organization was coming off of back to back world series wins and a debilitating strike, which also left many other teams struggling to bounce back.

Major League Baseball was in a transitional phase as a whole, so when the Jays decided to launch not one, but two new mascots, it just made sense. Sometimes it’s nice to start with a clean slate. Other times, it’s required to move forward. That being said, many fans embraced Ace and I.

They loved how energetic we were, how great it was that both genders were being represented, how young and energetic we were, how trendy our outfits were and how we tried to bring something new to the game.

Other fans, however, loathed us for those exact same reasons. Some individuals were just more open to letting you do your thing, others needed you to prove yourself so there was a two month transitional phase that Ace and I struggled through.

It was difficult at times, but I learned very early on not to take things that were said and done personally. Not everyone is going to like you, period. Not everyone is going to dislike you either. All I had control over was going out there and giving it 150% each game which it what I did.
6.) As we've seen down at the Rogers Centre during the summer months, it can get pretty hot down at the ballpark. How did you survive the dog days of summer inside what surely must have been a sweltering costume?
I cannot describe how hot it got in that costume, especially during the dog days of summer. There was a small fan in the costume’s head which helped cool me down a bit but when you’re when you’re jumping, dancing, running and constantly moving, it didn’t help much.

On those really sweltering days, Ace and I needed to take more drink breaks to stay hydrated and longer rest periods in air-conditioned rooms throughout the game. As much as you want to be out there entertaining the fans, safety did become an issue and we took many precautions to avoid any mishaps.
7.) If you could give the fans one "insider secret" from being a mascot, what would it be?
I guess the best ‘insider secret’ I could share is that not everyone who is a MLB mascot is male. When I went to Atlanta for the All Star game, I was so pleasantly surprised to meet other women in costume. Although we were only a handful, it was great to know I wasn’t alone on the field.
8.) Lastly, the million dollar question; what ever happened to Diamond?
To be honest, I don’t really know what happened to Diamond. It was saddening when I heard the news of her retirement, but she will always hold a special place in my life and heart ... always.
Thanks very much to Angelina for providing a great deal of insight on what it was like to don the Diamond costume. It was very cool to learn about the life of a real live mascot for the Toronto Blue Jays.

I think there will also be a soft spot in all of our hearts for Diamond, and maybe one of these days we'll see her back on the field reunited with her mascot family - Ace and Junior.

Image courtesy of Operation Sport

5 comments:

  1. Nice interview. I had always assumed mascot people would have a background in theatre and have to be physically fit. It's cool that there are a lot of women doing it.

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  2. Nice interview. I had always assumed mascot people would have a background in theatre and have to be physically fit. It's cool that there are a lot of women doing it.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Anyone who can make it through nine innings in a mascot costume has my utmost respect. It definitely sounds a lot tougher than most people might think!

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  3. A few years ago I was volunteering for the Virgin Festival on Toronto Island, and they had a bear mascot costume and I put it on. Only wore it for a few hours but man was it so bloodly hot. What made it easy was how much fun it was dancing around and literally everyone wanted to take their photo with a giant polar bear.

    Great interview Ian! always been curious about the people behind the giant foam heads!

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    Replies
    1. Kudos to anyone who can survive in a mascot suit during the dog days of summer. I can only imagine how quickly people get dehydrated on those things.

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