The Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots

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AJ Mass as Mr. Met in 1996.

In 1994 AJ Mass became the first person to put on the Mr. Met suit since the mascot was retired in the 1960s, and he played Mr. Met through the 1997 season. His book Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots he describes life inside the suit and explores the entertaining history of the sports mascot from its roots in Renaissance society.

Mass explains that being Mr. Met was like a drug: “You’re in the costume and you’re kind of getting all this Justin Bieber-esque attention, like everyone wants to take their picture with you. And everybody’s coming at you. And it’s kind of like a drug. It’s an adrenaline surge.”

There were some drawbacks of the job, though. Mass says he was treated like a kindergartener, even by people who knew who he was. He also couldn't make eye contact with people: "Mr. Met’s eyes were not my eyes. They were about a foot above my eyes…I got very used to talking to people’s necks."

Almost all mascots are silent. “To be able to show your emotions just through small body language changes and everything, I think, is just better performance.”

Like any profession, there can be tensions between mascots. Many mascots had problems with Ted Giannoulas who played the San Diego Chicken. Mass says that Giannoulas was a great performer on the field, but “outside of the suit, it’s ‘me, me, me. Look at me, look at me.' He came and did one game with me, but he was telling me what to do.”

Mass was fired by Mets management by email in 1997. He didn’t want anything to do with the Mets for 2 years after. Still, Mass says, being a mascot is a great job for a performer. “It really is fully immersing yourself in a character…but you really need to be a baseball fan.”