July 24, 2018 by Kirsten Nelson
Mr Celery
Mr. Celery, Photo Credit: Katie Makal

It was bobblehead night at Frawley Stadium, and the parking lot was jammed long before the gates opened. Eager fans had arrived long before the sun would set on this sweltering day along the riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware, all in the hopes of taking their own Mr. Celery home.

Mr. Celery, for those who might not be familiar with the Class A Kansas City Royals affiliate Wilmington Blue Rocks, is a legend. And an elusive one at that. Never one to wander the stands, posing for photos with fans, and certainly not available for corporate events or social gatherings outside the field. Mr. Celery only comes out when the Blue Rocks score a run.

But wait, the team is called the Blue Rocks. Why is a celery stalk mascot making the crowds go wild? Well, that’s the kind of creativity that prompted Forbes to declare that Minor League Baseball is on a growth curve.

Minor League Baseball is very “on trend” for increasing revenues at the moment: Teams are moving into downtown areas in cities. They’re all about local food, culture and traditions. And they are using new technology to control light pollution and share game content. Oh and the tickets are cheap and the zany entertainment is very family friendly. All are business drivers, but this growth presents some interesting follow-on opportunities to AV experience designers, including new energy-efficient LED lighting systems, systems analytics and creative new audiovisual support for those unexpected mascot heroes.

Creativity is a bit of an understatement when it comes to Mr. Celery. He’s one of three Blue Rocks mascots, the other two of which are actually related to the team, and are actually the color blue. Mr. Celery was a leftover prop from a stadium catering promotion, and he first took the field in 2000, when the Blue Rocks general manager decided he wanted to do something memorable when the team scored a run (this was pre-social media, so kudos to the guy for getting in on the photo-opp game early).

Mr Celery
Mr. Celery, Photo Credit: Katie Makal

That’s where the other piece of the Mr. Celery legend comes into play. The green fibrous vegetable doesn’t just run out on the field unaccompanied. He bursts out from behind home plate while the stadium PA system (Community Loudspeakers, if you’re wondering) blares the most infectious guitar riff and rock vocals of all time: “Song 2” by Blur. You know, that one when Damon Albarn chants, “Woo hoo” repeatedly with great cheer.

The Blue Rocks were way ahead of other Minor League teams when they rebranded around a completely random and merchandise-friendly mascot. Lots of teams are adopting temporary monikers that they roll out for a few games each season. Maybe most notably the Staten Island Pizza Rats, which for five games in the 2018 season will help to sell a lot of t-shirts and hats. And maybe even pizza.

Novelty team rebranding can also double attendance at games, as the Jacksonville Suns discovered when they played five games as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp last season.

Minor League Baseball is responding to growth with media expansion, including the First Pitch app and MilB.TV for nationwide coverage of games. That in turn means more large-scale video scoreboards installed at minor league parks. Here creativity is happening, too. The Chicago Dogs went with a double-sided video display to entertain travelers passing the new Impact Field on the interstate.

Mr Celery Jersey Backs
Mr. Celery Jerseys via SportsLogos.net

Meanwhile, under the new LED field lights at Frawley Stadium, this bobblehead night was designated a “Celery-bration,” and hence the Blue Rocks were wearing special green uniforms that said “Woo Hoo!” on the back.

Luckily for fans, the Blue Rocks led a blowout against the Salem Red Sox, scoring 16 runs to their opponents’ one. And in a perfect testament to why stadium sound and music selection is key, every time “Song 2” was cued up, the crowd went nuts and sang along while Mr. Celery zoomed around and high-fived the fans that clamored to the railings along the baselines. On nights like these, Damon Albarn probably cashes slightly larger checks thanks to the stadium’s venue license for the song.

Not since the hand-claps of John Fogerty’s “Put Me In, Coach,” (though the original sample was taken from a 1962 song called “Let’s Go!”)  has such a catchy crowd favorite been composed. And I’ll tell you, even this jaded music fan was chanting along with all those woo hoos. I’m just glad I was never caught on the fan-cam.

About Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.