Category Archives: Interviews

3 Strikes with Dan Watson

Dan WatsonIf you check the front office page of the Fort Wayne TinCaps website, you’ll see that there are many new names and faces. One of them is Dan Watson, who joined the team as the Radio Broadcast Manager in November.

He’s wasted little time in getting to work, having put together his own blog, The Watson Files, where he dishes on pretty much everything. He recently was kind enough to answer my 3 Strikes.

Here goes:

STRIKE 1: This is your first season In Fort Wayne. Tell us a little about yourself and your experiences in professional baseball so far.

Well, I’m 24 years old, originally from northeast Ohio in a small town called Conneaut. I went to school at Otterbein College near Columbus, OH. During college I was the sports director of the campus radio station, the lead broadcaster for a wood-bat summer collegiate league team (the Delaware Cows) and a news/sports reporter/anchor for a commercial radio station in Columbus. This will be my third year in professional baseball; in 2007 I was with the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League and last season I called games for the Harrisburg Senators in the Eastern League, alongside former Wizards broadcaster Terry Byrom.

STRIKE 2: You’ll be the lead radio announcer in the upcoming season, what might we expect from you and your crew when we listen in?

Good question… This is my first time being the lead broadcaster for a 140-game schedule, so your guess is as good as mine! Seriously, a night of baseball is fun and (usually) exciting and I hope people will be able to feel that enthusiasm when they listen to TinCaps games. I grew up listening to Tom Hamilton on Cleveland Indians broadcasts and his energy, ability to “see everything” and storytelling ability are things I try to emulate. Last year in Harrisburg, we had a player who grew up around the corner from Burl Ives and another who had his father-in-law as his field manager earlier in the year (luckily for him they were on good terms!). Not every game is going to be a nailbiter and not everybody is a die-hard baseball fan, but most people I know will stick around for a good story.

STRIKE 3: You recently started a blog, The Watson Files. How’s the fan repsonse been so far? 

I’ve gotten a few e-mails here and there, mostly people welcoming me to town. I think it takes a little while for the general public to realize it’s there and that it’s worth taking a few minutes to read. We’re looking at doing some podcasts as the season gets closer. My hope is that it gets people excited about Parkview Field and baseball in general.

Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne Tincaps.

3 Strikes with Tom Mott

Former Fort Wayne Wizards Pitcher Now Helps Youth to Achieve Their Dreams as Founder of 1Dream Foundation

Tom Mott was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the fourth round of the 1994 Amateur Draft as the 99th overall selection. In 2005, he went 13-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 25 games with the Wizards; all of them as a starter. He struck out 64 while walking 48 over 129.2 innings pitched.

His performance was often that of a number one starter after having been pegged as the Wizards’ number four coming out of Spring Training. It was also good enough to earn him a spot on the Midwest League All-Star Team that year, alongside fellow Wizards, Jake Patterson and Corey Koskie. Mott was also recently selected as a member of the All-Time Wizards Team.

Tom Mott with the Wizards in 1995While 1995 was a bright spot in his career, Mott appeared in just 34 games over the next 3 years and never apeared higher than Double-A ball as he battled arm/elbow injuries. By 1999, he was out of baseball.

After his playing days, he went on to coach youth basketball and spent one season as an assistant coach with the Miami Tropics basketball organization. Most recently, he founded the 1Dream Foundation that is aimed at helping underprivileged international teens to use basketball as a means for getting into U.S. schools and college.

Mott was recently kind enough to take “3 Strikes” from me and is the very first in what I hope will become a recurring segment here at Baseball in Fort Wayne. So, without further ado . . .

Tell me about your favorite memories of playing in Fort Wayne.

There were many great memories during my season in Fort Wayne.  The memories began with an 18-inning marathon game to open the season in 30 degree weather.  I didn’t pitch that night, so I nearly froze to death in the dugout for 5+ hours.  I think my first official outing as a Wizard was on the road in Battle Creek.  The night before our game was snowed out, and so we played a doubleheader in the freezing cold with piles of snow connecting the field to the stands. 
 
As the season progressed I had some great run support and put together some wins and was selected for the MWL All Star Game at West Michigan.  That was quite an honor and a lot of fun.  Memories at Memorial Stadium included pitching on the same night that Jeff Gordon came to town.  He threw out the first pitch and I was amazed at how short he was.  Being a California kid, NASCAR wasn’t in my blood and I honestly didn’t even know who he was at the time.  But looking back now at the career that he has had, I was honored to share the mound with him. 
 
I had a great time in Fort Wayne… it was the best place that I played during my career.  We had a great group of guys that really enjoyed being at the ballpark every day.  

Have you heard about the Wizards renaming the team to the Fort Wayne TinCaps (in honor of Johnny Appleseed)? Any thoughts on that?

I just heard about the change in the name and it is a little bit of a disappointment probably for anyone that has ever donned a Wizards uniform but probably a very good business decision for the front office of the team as they move into the new park and try and establish a new identity.  For me the name Wizards and Fort Wayne will always be linked together and I still vividly remember the “Amazing Baseball” slogan that was a constant during my tenure in Fort Wayne.  TinCaps will definately take some getting used to..

Tell me more about the 1 Dream Foundation and how others can be involved.

The 1 Dream Foundation is a non-profit organization that I started about 18 months ago.  It helps provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged students from throughout the world.  Currently our focus is just on basketball playing students, but hopefully in the years to come we can attract students from various sports. 

Tom Mott with Kids at the 1Dream Foundation

My desire to help the less fortunate actually began during my career with the Minnesota Twins.  As with all Major League Baseball teams, players from Latin America are very well represented yet are often ill prepared socially for life in America.  I made it a point during my career to actively try and help these young players by showing an interest in their cultures and language and trying to help them adjust to life in America.  There are so many 16 or 17 year old kids that have arrived in the USA with no family, friends or money and I tried to provide them with a little guidance and mentoring. 

So now I’ve just changed focus to doing the same thing with basketball playing kids and it’s been a great endeavor so far.  We spend close to $10,000 per student per year, and donations are our lifeblood so if people want to help they can email me: tmott@1dreamfoundation.com.

Thanks for taking the time to offer your candid thoughts and reflections. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors and thanks for being a part of our history!

[photos are courtesy of Tom Mott]

eOral History: Dave Bone

Former Fort Wayne resident, Dave Bone found this site and sent me an e-mail to kindly provide a couple local ties that I missed (Thanks BTW Dave). Of course, I had to ask “his story” and he just as kindly provided that. With his permission, I am delighted to provide you with the following eOral History.

Dave BoneDave is a product of the Wildcat League, where he played at Portage Junior High from age 7 to 10. Then, he played at Times Corner LL at the old Aldersgate church while age 11 and 12. From age 13 to 15, Dave played Senior League Baseball at the Homestead High School Field as a member of the John’s Paintings team where he played for Don Grimm and John Shoppel.

At age 15, he played for Hamricks and went to Marshall University in West Virginia and Miami University of Ohio as a pick up player for Andy Lebenoff. Then, he played for Colin Lister at age 16 to 18 while also playing in the Connie Mack and Stan Musial Leagues.

I played 4 years at Elmhurst where we were taken out by Northrop my junior and senior years in the regional tournament. They went on to win state one year and were runner up the other. (Current Cleveland Indian’s Manager) Eric Wedge was a sophomore at Northrop at the time.

Then, he began his collegiate career. Aside from his school teams, Dave played with the Atlanta Yankees and Georgia Stars. Following College, he played with McComb Construction (Joe and Dick) for 5 years off and on before moving to Georgia and played with Atlanta Crackers Baseball until age 33.

Here’s the Rest of Dave’s Story

I have many conversations with the Reds and Dodgers during my high school days, but was not selected in the draft. Visited LA Tech on a NCAA paid visit as a HS Senior and also traveled to Indiana University on a paid visit. With my grades being average, I chose to do the junior college route, where I received a full ride to Vincennes University. I pitched my freshman season and finished 8-2. I came back for year two and hurt my rotator while throwing off indoor mounds in October. Had surgery in February. I was prepared to sign with SW Missouri State in the spring of 1986, but based upon the surgery results, I receive a phone call to inform me they had retracted the offer.

I sent in my book fee and tuition to South Florida in Tampa. The very next week, coach called me into his office at Vincennes and told me that Joe Roberts would like to talk about attending Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah GA. We sat in a conference room at Vincennes and Joe asked if I would like to play at AASU (formally Armstrong State College). Joe offered me $500.00 dollars to play because he knew I could hit in while in high school. I signed my letter of intent and left for Savannah in August of ‘86. Coach played me mostly in LF and 1B in the spring of ‘87. I did some spot pitching but lost most of my fastball. “No. 7 guy,” he called me. :).

We had an awesome year with a final record (I believe) at 54-12. Very much enjoyed playing at GA Tech, South Carolina, North Carolina, Citidel, GA Southern and also met in a neutral site with Clemson. Played at Jacksonville U and UCF. Too make a long story short, I ended up hitting over .400 most of my first season and ended around .389 – still hold a DII walk record in a game. Held the OBP record for about 15 years at .518. Not glamorous but fun. 🙂

Dave Bone - back row, far leftWe ended up getting beat in our conference tournament in ’87. The score ended at 13-12 after we led 12-4 going into the 8th inning. The next season, the university chose to leave DI and enter DII, where we played in a very strong conference in the Peach Belt. During the ‘88 and ’89 seasons, we only lost 12-15 games on a 65 Game schedule. We beat Northern Kentucky in Regionals in ‘88 to attend the DII College World Series in Mont. Alabama. Battled with FSU and was beaten 11-9. They went on to win the tournament – as they have 15-16 other times. We returned in the ‘89 World Series, with a ranking of No. 1 but went 0-2. Overall, we had about 6-8 guys drafted and had kids from 17-20 different states each year. During my summer months in GA, I was recruited to play with the Atlanta Yankees/ Georgia Stars. The late Durwood Davis (Team Manager) put 7 of us up in his basement where we traveled through the South playing baseball in the summer of ‘88. A great brand of ball being played.

I left for GA for a sporting goods job in Atlanta. I spent 8 years doing the Team Business before my wife took a job in Pittsburgh where we wanted our twins, Alec and Brenden, to be closer to family. I interviewed with Dicks Sporting Goods in Pittsburgh at their home office and took the job of Sales Manager for one of their locations. 13 years later, I find myself in Phoenix Arizona while Dicks continues to grow west.

Alec Bone - back row, far leftI opened our first location in AZ at Deer Valley and will open our two level prototype in Glendale in August. I left Pittsburgh to take a General Manager job and open a new location in Fort Wayne. Spent nearly 4 years in Fort Wayne, where I hooked up with my old nemeses, the Northrop guys. Coached some travel baseball with Bob Mchenry and Tim Claxton. We had a wonderful time teaching the boys to play. I had an opportunity to take a position in KC and Chicago last year, but wanted to get back to warm weather, so I took the Phoenix offer.

Brenden Bone - back row, far leftCurrently, I am in my 6th year of coaching travel baseball with my boys; Alec and Brenden (both 13). They are avid baseball, soccer, basketball players and golfers. We play with the AZ Braves out of Scottsdale Arizona. Year round ball – you have to love it! Brenden is a shortstop/pitcher. Alec is a catcher/pitcher and middle infielder. My focus is to make sure they are having fun playing any sport while developing as individuals. They are both straight-A kids and I very much enjoy watching them play.

As we all know life has curves and who knows what’s around the bend?

Notes:

  • Photos top to bottom provided by Dave Bone; 1.) Dave Bone, 2.) AZ Braves tournament winners team photo, 3.) Alec (son) pitching, 4.) Brenden (son) at shortstop.
  • The walks in a game record referenced is 7 while with Armstrong Atlantic versus Sacred Heart on March 17, 1989. [source: NCAA].

eOral History at Baseball in Fort Wayne

When I first embarked upon the work to put Baseball in Fort Wayne together, I did a lot of research. But what was even more valuable was meeting many men and women who had been participants, fans or otherwise suing the long and fascinating saga of baseball in Northeast Indiana. I heard many stories. Some of them I have repeated to others on multiple occasions. Others, I am saddened to admit, I have forgotten or cannot recall enough to accurately tell it without diminishing the facts.

It is this fact that got me thinking about the possibility of one day putting together an oral history book of the great game in our area. But putting it all into a book might require years of research, interviews and sockpiles of notes and tapes that might possible crowd me out of my house.

But, as this site has evolved, I’ve had the opportunity to e-mail with folks who have Northeast Indiana baseball ties. All of these folks have stories about the passion that is baseball in our region. A good example is Travis Weaver, who performed as Wayne the Wizard in the 1990’s. He sent me a simple interview. Curious for more, I responded and asked for more.

He wasn’t the first and hasn’t been the last. In fact, just last week, it happened again. I’ve received permission to post some of the correspondence, and will probalby do so tomorrow or early next week.

Perhaps this site might also offer a means of eOral history and make the original idea come to reality in a previously unthought of way.

On that note, if you ever wish to share your Northeast Indiana baseball stories or info (Taylor University even sends press releases!), please feel free to do so. You can use my contact form or e-mail me directly at fwbaseball at gmail dot com.

Wayne the Wizard Reflects (Full Interview)

Note: The following is the full version of my interview with Travis Weaver, who performed as Wayne the Wizard in Fort Wayne while employed with the Fort Wayne Wizards. Photos are courtesy of the Fort Wayne Wizards.

Wayne the WizardHis first appearance as Wayne the Wizard wasn’t on a ball diamond. It was a two-hour gig at a skating rink. Travis Weaver, who performed as the now semi-retired, venerable sorcerer-mascot of the Fort Wayne Wizards from April 1996 to August 1998, struggled with a “large zip-up barrel type contraption that made me look like I was around 100 lbs heavier.” It was one of the first times he had donned the gear and “it took me a long, long time to get it on at the rink.”

“I had no idea what to do for the 2 hours,” says Weaver. “I pretty much gave out high fives and dodged out-of-control skaters the whole time.”

Travis recently answered several questions about his experiences as “the dancing” Wayne the Wizard. Among his most memorable moments, Travis opened up about interacting with players and coaches, season ticket holders who “cheered every time I did even though they had seen it 200 times before,” fans who may have had one too many and the verbal poundings he took from players for never (well, almost never) being able to win the mascot race despite the head start.

He also commented on the Harrison Square project: “I didn’t know there was anything really wrong with Memorial Stadium, but I totally get what they are trying to do.”

Weaver now lives and works in Texas about as far from being a mascot as one could get and he hasn’t made it back to the Memorial Stadium since leaving his post, but does hope to do so during a future visit to Fort Wayne if his schedule allows.

“I started to really loosen up after the first few games and started interacting more with the fans.” Once he discontinued the use of the “zip-up barrel contraption” things got even more natural when he performed.

Wayne the WizardWhat were you favorite on-field promotions/events to participate in?
“I liked the race where I started on second [base] and the kid started at home . . . I could only walk and the kid could run. I would get razzed a lot by the players. Things like ‘how are you gonna let a five-year-old punk you in front of all these people like that?” and ‘If that were me, I’d never lose’.

“I decided for one of my last games, I would finally win. [Before the game] I worked it out with the umpire that … there would be an appeal to third and he was to call me out. I also worked it out with the catcher and third baseman to do a mock appeal as well. So while I’m on the field doing other promotions, I’m working my ‘victory’ behind the scenes with the players and the ump. The hardest part for me was to tell the boy racing that no matter what happens; he is going to win and for him to keep running the whole time.

“To really make it look good, I went into the clubhouse before the game and started talking all sorts of trash . . . how I’m sick of losing that race and I’m gonna win today and I don’t care what the management says. They were all blowing me off, but I wanted them to believe that when I touched home plate first, that I really followed through on my trash talking.

“When the race starts, I start walking normally until I get a few feet from third base. Remember, I’m supposed to MISS third. I turn around to start taunting the kid and I step right on the base. Obviously, we couldn’t start the race over, so I just kept going. Many times I would lose because I trip on my way to home plate, the Diamond Girl would slap me, I would “get lost” and forget where home was.

“Well, the boy was a few feet behind me when I reached the batter’s box and I turned to him and tried my best to act like a bad guy from professional wrestling by having him get closer and closer and then BOOM! I stepped on home plate a step before he did.

“I thought I would get some laughs and a couple boos, but my goodness! I was soundly booed by everybody but the Wizards players. They came out of the dugout to congratulate me like I just won the Boston Marathon. They were very pumped for me, as the crowd is about to litter the field with debris and turn over some cars. The PA announcer, Jim Amstutz was just as floored. He’s a good guy and would rib me just as bad as the players would, so when I won the race, he was literally shocked. After they did the appeal to third and I was called out, everybody realized that the whole thing was put on and got a big laugh.”

Which players were your favorite/most memorable?

“Most of the players I enjoyed didn’t make it to the majors. , , , , and are some guys that immediately come to mind. Former hitting coach, may be the funniest human alive. I got to know the pitchers a lot more than the positional players, because they have more time to talk during the game and in the clubhouse before the game. Jake had the build and mannerisms of a pro wrestler, and Bunk pulled off one of the funniest R-rated pranks I have ever seen in my entire life.

How was it to interact with the Fort Wayne fans . . . any memories that stand out?

“I thought the fans were great. Even the season ticket holders that cheered every time I did Cotton Eyed Joe even though they had seen it 200 times before. The kids were great too…even the ones that were a little too overanxious and rambunctious and wanted to see what the real Wayne looked like. I always had fun playing with the inebriated fans that had thrown back about six cool ones by the third inning. I would act like I was doing a field sobriety test and they thought it was funny because I was paying them attention, all the while the rest of the fans in the section were getting a kick out of me clowning on the guy that forgot to say when.

“I can still do the Wayne the Wizard autograph in my sleep. I should have been sponsored by Sharpie with the number of baseballs, bats, shirts, seat cushions, Frisbees, foreheads, hands, arms, shoes, baseball cards, casts, etc. I signed over the years.”

Have you attended any recent Wizards games or any minor league baseball where you live now?

“Every once in a while. There is a minor league team close to my home and I try to catch a game whenever I can. I have not attended one Wizards game since I left – not that I’m opposed to it, I just have never been able to work it out when I come into Fort Wayne to visit.”

I am sure you have heard about the Harrison Square and downtown Ballpark project . . . any thoughts?

“I didn’t know there was anything really wrong with Memorial Stadium, but I totally get what they are trying to do. It’s worked to revitalize the downtown areas of other cities, so I’m hopeful it works in Fort Wayne too. I just hope they find something to do with Memorial Stadium and it doesn’t sit vacant for years, or worse . . . they need to tear it down.”

Wayne the Wizard and Dinger the DragonDoes it disappoint you that Dinger has taken the spotlight away from Wayne the Wizard? Would you like to see Wayne more often?

“On the contrary…to me, Wayne was retired, or put into semi-retirement after I moved. I know that when I left at the end of the 1998 season, they put somebody in the suit . . . and Dinger was “born” the following season. I took that as a compliment.”

What are you doing today?

“Surprisingly, I don’t do anything remotely close to mascotting. I work in the corporate environment managing inventories of bank and financial institutions. Although being Wayne the Wizard has nothing to do with my current job, it is always good to share stories at work of being a pro mascot, meeting and when they came to the stadium, getting to know players [who are] in the big leagues right now (, , , , , etc.), and the funny stories that go along with being a 7 ½ foot tall dancing mascot (blind spot accidents, wardrobe malfunctions, depth perception issues inside the mask, etc.).”

A BIG THANK YOU to Travis for his time and willingness to answer a few questions.

[tags]Wayne the Wizard, Baseball in Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Wizards, Travis Weaver, Mascots, Minor League Baseball[/tags]

Wayne the Wizard Reflects (Part 4)

Note: This is the fourth and final part in a series of posts that cover my interview with Travis Weaver, who performed as Wayne the Wizard in Fort Wayne while employed with the Fort Wayne Wizards. Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne Wizards. Part 1 can be read here. Part 2 can be read here.Part 3 can be read here.

Have you attended any recent Wizards games or any minor league baseball where you live now?

“Every once in a while. There is a minor league team close to my home and I try to catch a game whenever I can. I have not attended one Wizards game since I left – not that I’m opposed to it, I just have never been able to work it out when I come into Fort Wayne to visit.”

I am sure you have heard about the Harrison Square and downtown Ballpark project . . . any thoughts?

“I didn’t know there was anything really wrong with Memorial Stadium, but I totally get what they are trying to do. It’s worked to revitalize the downtown areas of other cities, so I’m hopeful it works in Fort Wayne too. I just hope they find something to do with Memorial Stadium and it doesn’t sit vacant for years, or worse . . . they need to tear it down.”

Wayne the Wizard and Dinger the DragonDoes it disappoint you that Dinger has taken the spotlight away from Wayne the Wizard? Would you like to see Wayne more often?

“On the contrary…to me, Wayne was retired, or put into semi-retirement after I moved. I know that when I left at the end of the 1998 season, they put somebody in the suit . . . and Dinger was “born” the following season. I took that as a compliment.”

What are you doing today?

“Surprisingly, I don’t do anything remotely close to mascotting. I work in the corporate environment managing inventories of bank and financial institutions. Although being Wayne the Wizard has nothing to do with my current job, it is always good to share stories at work of being a pro mascot, meeting and when they came to the stadium, getting to know players [who are] in the big leagues right now (, , , , , etc.), and the funny stories that go along with being a 7 ½ foot tall dancing mascot (blind spot accidents, wardrobe malfunctions, depth perception issues inside the mask, etc.).”

A BIG THANK YOU to Travis for his time and willingness to answer a few questions.

[tags]Wayne the Wizard, Baseball in Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Wizards, Travis Weaver, Mascots, Minor League Baseball[/tags]

Wayne the Wizard Reflects (Part 3)

Note: This is the third in a series of posts that cover my interview with Travis Weaver, who performed as Wayne the Wizard in Fort Wayne while employed with the Fort Wayne Wizards. Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne Wizards. Part 1 can be read here. Part 2 can be read here.

Which players were your favorite/most memorable?

“Most of the players I enjoyed didn’t make it to the majors. , , , , and are some guys that immediately come to mind. Former hitting coach, may be the funniest human alive. I got to know the pitchers a lot more than the positional players, because they have more time to talk during the game and in the clubhouse before the game. Jake had the build and mannerisms of a pro wrestler, and Bunk pulled off one of the funniest R-rated pranks I have ever seen in my entire life.

How was it to interact with the Fort Wayne fans . . . any memories that stand out?

“I thought the fans were great. Even the season ticket holders that cheered every time I did Cotton Eyed Joe even though they had seen it 200 times before. The kids were great too…even the ones that were a little too overanxious and rambunctious and wanted to see what the real Wayne looked like. I always had fun playing with the inebriated fans that had thrown back about six cool ones by the third inning. I would act like I was doing a field sobriety test and they thought it was funny because I was paying them attention, all the while the rest of the fans in the section were getting a kick out of me clowning on the guy that forgot to say when.

“I can still do the Wayne the Wizard autograph in my sleep. I should have been sponsored by Sharpie with the number of baseballs, bats, shirts, seat cushions, Frisbees, foreheads, hands, arms, shoes, baseball cards, casts, etc. I signed over the years.”

Check back tomorrow for the fourth and final post of the interview.

[tags]Wayne the Wizard, Baseball in Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Wizards, Travis Weaver, Mascots, Minor League Baseball, Sharpie, Cotton Eyed Joe[/tags]

Wayne the Wizard Reflects . . . (Part 2)

Note: This is the second in a series of posts that cover my interview with Travis Weaver, who performed as Wayne the Wizard in Fort Wayne while employed with the Fort Wayne Wizards. Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne Wizards. Part I can be read here.

“I started to really loosen up after the first few games and started interacting more with the fans.” Once he discontinued the use of the “zip-up barrel contraption” things got even more natural when he performed.

Wayne the WizardWhat were you favorite on-field promotions/events to participate in?
“I liked the race where I started on second [base] and the kid started at home . . . I could only walk and the kid could run. I would get razzed a lot by the players. Things like ‘how are you gonna let a five-year-old punk you in front of all these people like that?” and ‘If that were me, I’d never lose’.

“I decided for one of my last games, I would finally win. [Before the game] I worked it out with the umpire that … there would be an appeal to third and he was to call me out. I also worked it out with the catcher and third baseman to do a mock appeal as well. So while I’m on the field doing other promotions, I’m working my ‘victory’ behind the scenes with the players and the ump. The hardest part for me was to tell the boy racing that no matter what happens; he is going to win and for him to keep running the whole time.

“To really make it look good, I went into the clubhouse before the game and started talking all sorts of trash . . . how I’m sick of losing that race and I’m gonna win today and I don’t care what the management says. They were all blowing me off, but I wanted them to believe that when I touched home plate first, that I really followed through on my trash talking.

“When the race starts, I start walking normally until I get a few feet from third base. Remember, I’m supposed to MISS third. I turn around to start taunting the kid and I step right on the base. Obviously, we couldn’t start the race over, so I just kept going. Many times I would lose because I trip on my way to home plate, the Diamond Girl would slap me, I would “get lost” and forget where home was.

“Well, the boy was a few feet behind me when I reached the batter’s box and I turned to him and tried my best to act like a bad guy from professional wrestling by having him get closer and closer and then BOOM! I stepped on home plate a step before he did.

“I thought I would get some laughs and a couple boos, but my goodness! I was soundly booed by everybody but the Wizards players. They came out of the dugout to congratulate me like I just won the Boston Marathon. They were very pumped for me, as the crowd is about to litter the field with debris and turn over some cars. The PA announcer, Jim Amstutz was just as floored. He’s a good guy and would rib me just as bad as the players would, so when I won the race, he was literally shocked. After they did the appeal to third and I was called out, everybody realized that the whole thing was put on and got a big laugh.”

Visit Tomorrow for Part 3.

[tags]Wayne the Wizard, Baseball in Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Wizards, Travis Weaver, Mascots, Minor League Baseball[/tags]

Wayne the Wizard Reflects on Two Seasons of Amazing Baseball

Note: This is the first in a series of posts that cover my interview with Travis Weaver, who performed as Wayne the Wizard in Fort Wayne while employed with the Fort Wayne Wizards. Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne Wizards.

Wayne the WizardHis first appearance as Wayne the Wizard wasn’t on a ball diamond. It was a two-hour gig at a skating rink. Travis Weaver, who performed as the now semi-retired, venerable sorcerer-mascot of the Fort Wayne Wizards from April 1996 to August 1998, struggled with a “large zip-up barrel type contraption that made me look like I was around 100 lbs heavier.” It was one of the first times he had donned the gear and “it took me a long, long time to get it on at the rink.”

“I had no idea what to do for the 2 hours,” says Weaver. “I pretty much gave out high fives and dodged out-of-control skaters the whole time.”

Travis recently answered several questions about his experiences as “the dancing” Wayne the Wizard. Among his most memorable moments, Travis opened up about interacting with players and coaches, season ticket holders who “cheered every time I did even though they had seen it 200 times before,” fans who may have had one too many and the verbal poundings he took from players for never (well, almost never) being able to win the mascot race despite the head start.

He also commented on the Harrison Square project: “I didn’t know there was anything really wrong with Memorial Stadium, but I totally get what they are trying to do.”

Weaver now lives and works in Texas about as far from being a mascot as one could get and he hasn’t made it back to the Memorial Stadium since leaving his post, but does hope to do so during a future visit to Fort Wayne if his schedule allows.

Visit Tomorrow for Part 2!

[tags]Wayne the Wizard, Baseball in Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Wizards, Travis Weaver, Mascots, Minor League Baseball[/tags]