Mascots flock to Vero Beach Sports Village for boot camp training

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Eight professional sports mascots spent their weekend at Vero Beach Sports Village attending Dave Raymond’s Mascot Boot Camp. It marked the first time such a camp had been held on the Treasure Coast.

“This is the 18th year we’ve run our boot camp, it just happens to be in Vero Beach for the first time this year,” said Mascot Boot camp frontman Dave Raymond. “We have mostly minor league baseball here: the Gwinnett Braves, the South Gary Railcats, the West Virginia Power, the Clearwater Threshers and a few others have their mascots here. The Jacksonville Sharks Arena Football League is the only pro team represented here.” ESPN writer Patrick Hruby attended the camp as well.  “He rented a cheap, ugly Panda bear costume with the hope of gaining a first person’s perspective of what it takes to be a mascot performer,” Raymond said.  “I have known Patrick for a few years because he is a fan of the sports mascot industry and he’s written some great mascot stories in the past.  Over the course of the first day, he lost his head twice.  On his first hysterical performance, he accidentally spun the Panda head around backwards.”At the camp, Raymond and his assistant, former Universal Cheerleaders Association Mascot of the Year (University of Delaware) Christopher Bruce, critiqued and instructed the mascots on non-verbal communication, skit presentation, and fan interaction.

“These guys are spending their good time, effort, and money to learn how to become great at this profession – and it really is a profession,” said Raymond. “The mascot can never, ever, be just be a kid in a suit – he is a living, breathing entity and a brand extension.”

That is something Raymond, 55, knows something about. He got his start as a mascot when he volunteered to the Philadelphia Phanatic in 1978.

Thanks to Raymond and his successor, Tom Burgoyne, the Phanatic is widely considered the best mascot in all of sports.

Raymond was the Phanatic from 1978-1994, while Burgoyne took the lead 1994 and still holds the job. The Phanatic is one of three mascots in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The Phillies really made a commitment to being serious about the Phanatic,” said Raymond. “I’m proud I was part of that, and it is a big revenue producer for them.”

According to Raymond, Vero Beach Sports Village is the perfect venue to host and grow his Mascot Boot Camp.

“I’m psyched about this place,” said Raymond. “We could have somewhere between 20 and 40 performers next year and just take over this place. We could even have a mascot competition where we try to find the best minor league mascot.”

“The potential for this facility is amazing,” Raymond added. “I’m impressed with the organization and what Minor League Baseball is trying to do here. I was initially concerned about getting 15-20 performers down here and the facilities not being able to handle that, so this was a soft rollout. We are now firmly behind doing a full promotion to try to get people down here to the Vero Beach Sports Village.”

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