By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Roscoe the P-Rays Rooster already has a lot to crow about, and he’s asking for help to fly to the next level.
The outgoing, 6-foot-5 character who works the stands for the Princeton Rays baseball team was voted the top mascot in the Appalachian League in online voting last week. That puts him in the final 14 in the nationwide “Mascot Mania” contest run by Minor League Baseball.
Voting ends Thursday. Fans may access the contest by going to MiLB.com or princetonrays.net and clicking on the “Mascot Mania” graphic, or by tweeting the hashtag #MascotMania on Twitter or by following @MiLB.
“I want to win this thing for the community of Princeton, for the fans, for the ballclub,” said Tommy Thomason, who is in his 12th season portraying Roscoe. “I hope this win from Mascot Mania puts us out there a little bit, gives us a little recognition.”
The contest began with 160 candidates. The first round of voting was “exciting,” he said. “It was a good run for two weeks trying to get votes. I’m not a politician, but it ended up working well.”
“It was a lot of work. There’s a whole list of people who really helped me out, gave me a lot of support. It was really amazing — this little kid from Princeton, getting to the finals.”
He said that while he was waiting for the first-round voting to be released, “I was sweating bullets all night Wednesday night, all Thursday morning. I probably only got four hours of sleep.”
Thomason said he found out that he had reached the “championship round” via a phone call from his girlfriend.
Thomason said, “She told me, ‘You’re on the national ballot.’ I said, ‘I guess that means I won.’ There was a lot of hootin’ and hollering, driving up the hill going to work. When I got there, there were a lotta high fives, congratulations, people saying ‘Way to go, Rooster.’ ”
“It was a great feeling to find out I won,” he said. “It’s overwhelmed me, knowing how much support for one guy you get for just putting on the suit and having fun. This is what I love to do. I feel like it’s been my calling ... and I’m going to continue it as long as I can.”
In this week’s final round of voting, he said, “There’s a lot of big-market teams that we’re competing against — Clearwater (Fla.), Savannah (Ga.), Aberdeen (Md.).”
But that challenge has not diminished his enthusiasm. “I think we’ll have a lot of support,” he said. “We’ll make a run at it. They’ll know who the Appalachian League is.”
He said he’s heard that the general manager of the league’s Bristol ballclub is “sending out emails that say to ‘help the Rooster in his fight.’ ”
Voting is unlimited online, and Twitter users may vote 25 times a day. “Retweets count the same as a vote,” Thomason said.
He also predicted, “This won’t be my last one. We’ll get another mascot of the year.”
Asked to size up his remaining competition, Thomason complimented the suit worn by Phinley, the shark mascot of the Clearwater Threshers, and that of Gnate the Gnat of the Savannah Sand Gnats.
But he expressed confusion about Ballapeño, a giant green vegetable with Groucho Marx-like eyebrows who prowls a baseball field in San Antonio, Texas.
“I don’t understand the jalapeño,” he said. “That, I’m still scratching my head on.”
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org