Joshua has fallen in love with the stuffed Sandy the Seagull Stephanie was kind enough to give him. (He insists on calling him “Sammy,” despite understanding that isn't his name — I'm think it's an homage to Casey Stengel.) So when he found out we were taking him to Keyspan yesterday to see the Cyclones, he was tremendously excited, chiefly because we assured him that yes, he would get to meet Sandy. (Interest in actual baseball is a bit more fitful, but it'll come.)
So we get in the park and Joshua wants to know where Sandy is. He sees him down on the field and wants to go down there that minute. No, I say, we can't meet him yet. But we'll try soon. After a brief sojourn in the bleachers, I take him into the main stadium, figuring I can intercept the mascot after one of his between-innings responsibilities. We go down behind home plate, just in time to see Sandy vanish down the tunnel. That's OK — it's a really hot day, we'll say hi when he comes out next inning. The security guy is very nice to us and lets us stay — in fact, he's happy to have us sit in the best seat in the house. The Cyclones cheerleaders are also very nice to us, chatting and admiring Joshua's PLAY BALL shirt. Sandy, they say, is having a bird bath. Time drags on, Joshua is getting fractious and wants his mom, so reluctantly I abandon our post and take him back to the bleachers. Lots of game left to play, we'll check in with the mascot later. On the way back to the bleachers we do run into Pee Wee, Sandy's pal. Pee Wee is great: He pretends to drink from Joshua's sippy cup, gives him a hug, slaps five with him. We see him again a few minutes later and Joshua is very concerned that Pee Wee is thirsty. Pee Wee instantly stops, remembers, pretends to drink again and hugs the kid, who's thrilled. (Pee Wee's kindness will soon prove important.)
But after a time in the bleachers, Joshua wants to meet his hero again — and from across the park I can see Sandy's returned from beneath the stands. This time Emily and her pal Brooke undertake the mission. They're gone like 20 minutes. When they return, Emily has spots in her cheeks and a gunfighter's glower. Uh-oh.
Turns out they'd gone back behind home plate and been nicely allowed to wait right outside the tunnel while Sandy attended to various giant-seagull duties. When Sandy turned their way, Emily got his attention, started to talk to Joshua — and the mascot tapped his big feathery wrist and strode right past them. “You should have seen Joshua's face,” Emily says, seething. Memo to the PR people of the world: You don't ever want to hear a kid's mother say that in that tone of voice.
Luckily, Joshua's young enough to be distracted: Ice cream and chatter about Pee Wee put him back in a good mood. Minutes later, he was happily thumbing through a Cyclones program pointing out pictures of Sandy and saying how much he loved him, and somehow that felt worse than the cold shoulder. I mean, I'd worried that Joshua might one day get a less-than-kind brush-off from some surly Met. I'd wondered how I'd explain it, and if I could ever root for that player again. But from a mascot? At two years old? I'm generally pretty cynical, but I never expected that.
Look, Sandy, I know you're busy. I know it must be hot as hell in there. I know maybe you see the mom with the camera and think it's gonna take too long, and maybe you're right. I know it's hard to see and you're not allowed to talk and that makes it harder. But Jeez, tousle the kid's hair, kiss him with your beak, then point at your wrist and touch your chest in apology. That would've taken, what, 10 seconds? And Joshua would have been so thrilled that I guarantee we'd be explaining why we can't go to the Cyclones every night. (We did get a picture of Joshua with Sandy when he was up in the concourse near game's end. I hovered nearby wondering what I'd do if my wife clocked a mascot. Not exactly a warm moment: In contrast to Pee Wee, the Seagull could barely be bothered to put his hands on Joshua's head. Emily was not mollified.)
During a summer internship a million years ago I dated the office receptionist. She kept getting in trouble for being rude to angry callers and thought this was unjust, complaining that “taking shit from people isn't my job.” She was pissed at me when I pointed out that, actually, that was about 90% of her job. If Sandy was rushing off to interrupt the countdown of a backpack nuke discovered underneath the stadium, then I apologize. (And good show, homes.) But failing that, I can't really imagine what duties a New York-Penn League mascot had that were more pressing than taking a moment to be nice to a little boy.