Mascot School: How To Entertain, And What About Having To Pee?

Categories: Sports

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The folks behind the masks...the incredibly sweaty masks
After lunch time, all the campers were told to get in their costumes for a group photo. Slowly we started seeing all manner of animal taking form in our midst. A blue jay sat in the corner next to horse. A viper hugged a cow. Shasta and Sasha, the cougars from the University of Houston, were also present. It was the scariest thing in the world, and also the most comforting, mainly because we didn't have to wear one of those furnaces. We did sneak the Oiler head on for nostalgia purposes.

We got a handful of furry remarks from our friends when we sent them cellphone pics. No one brought up this aspect of the mascot game during the course of the camp. That's just a tad creepy.

All told by noon I was in the midst of two full-size Chick-Fil-A cows, wolves, horses, a cotton ball, a handful of tigers, a few generic wildcats, a monstrous lion from St. Thomas University, and a few unclassified mammalian creatures. It was the stuff of a vicious acid frenzy.

Around this time Clutch made his first appearance, all seven-feet of him, to perform a magic show for us with the help of Rocket Ranger Dominic, who has been his assistant now for a decade. Clutch is shadowed by Dominic at all events, a sort of bodyguard in case crowds get unruly or he needs special assistance. Mike Gonzales is also on the Clutch team. Houston being the small world it is, I found out that he actually grew up playing Little League with my
uncle in Pearland.

Clutch replaced (see comments below) the team's previous mascot, Turbo, before the 1995 season. Boudwin says that owner Leslie Alexander was looking for something a little cuddlier and interactive than Turbo.
The aerial performer wasn't exactly kid-friendly, seeing that it was a man in face-covering full-length tights. A teddy bear fit the bill, but it was the way Boudwin portrayed him that sold the character to people off all ages, and not just the kids.

The past few years Clutch gained a sidekick in Mini-Clutch, currently played by El Campo/Louise-area native Brandon Schoeneberg. When he's not donning the Mini-Clutch costume, he works in the oil-field industry. The previous Mini-Clutch took a job in Denver and Schoeneberg was a perfect fit.

The day winded down with a visit to Clutch's Cave, ensconced in a sizable supply cage in the bowels of the Toyota Center, not too far away from the team's locker room. Every costume Clutch has worn resides here, as do his props. Massive bowling pins, his trademark size quadruple XXXL, a plethora of costume choices, and an arsenal of silly string cans. We can see how seeing a disembodied Clutch would bother a child now. His feet lay in one corner; torsos hang on a clothes line. Two or three heads are on sticks drying out.

Leaving Toyota Center on Saturday with a bag full of Clutch goodies, I had a new respect for the
people who strap on these massive suits of fur, fiberglass, and elastic. Their jobs are among the most vital in the sports industry, from high schools to the pros. They can bring a team and its fans up when the chips are down or bring comic relief when the team is in a devastating
spiral.

I also really miss Orbit, the Astros old mascot from the Astrodome days, something fierce now.

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