Baseball has some great mascots, but the most special of all are that awesome subset of competitive running mascots. Does it get any better? Oh, yes, it does — sometimes the racers travel with the team and race against the opposing team's running mascots. Those Sonic fellas above have appeared only in spring training thus far; perhaps they'll make it to the Bigs one of these years. From the obscure to the sublime, here are the best MLB race teams.
Dot Race, Rangers
Red, Green and Blue dots compete in the middle of the sixth inning and are cheered on by fans holding coupons in one of the three colors. A coupon with the winning color can be redeemed for Ozarka water, which the sponsors the race. As mascot races go, this one's a little watered down and, frankly, dotty.
Tool Race, Braves
In this race, sponsored by Home Depot, Hammer, Saw, Brush and Drill race from first base to the scoreboard. Before the 2009 season, it was a virtual scoreboard race only. Not to paint this with too broad a brush, but compared with the better-known mascot racers, these guys don't quite cut it.
Hot Sauce Packets, Astros
The Hot Sauce Packets, sponsored by Taco Bell, were born in 2010. Fire, Hot and Mild race from the right field corner around the outfield and up to the visitors dugout. These saucy characters haven't been around long enough to cook up any controversy. Perhaps things will heat up this season.
Pepsi Bottle Race, Rays
Tropicana Field introduced the racing beverages, sponsored by Pepsi, in 2001. Aquafina, Pepsi and Sierra Mist are the running refreshments. They're cute, but they lack the fizz of MLB's higher-profile racers.
Hot Dog Derby, Royals
The Hot Dog Derby, presented by Heinz and Farmland, began in 2007. Ketchup, Relish and Mustard race on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (left). Kids run in the Teenie Weenie Hot Dog Derby (right) on Sundays. That's pretty doggone adorable.
Reds Race, Reds
Mascots Rosie Red, Mr. Redlegs and Gapper debuted a live Reds Race on the field at the end of the third inning. Mr. Red has even came out of retirement to compete. This novice team is on its way to being a red-hot contender.
Sugardale Hot Dog Derby, Indians
At the end of the fifth inning of every Indians home game, fans can enjoy the Sugardale Hot Dog Derby. Ketchup, Mustard and Onion enter the field from left field and then continue around the warning track, finishing just past the visitors dugout. There have been some epic battles since the live race started in 2007, most of which have resulted in Ketchup cheating. Ketchup's thick-rimmed glasses are in honor of the movie "Major League." They can be seen throughout the game causing trouble and meeting fans in various parts of the ballpark. Frankly, we find them pretty cute.
Great Pierogi Race, Pirates
The Great Pierogi Race, sponsored by Mrs. T's Pierogies, commences between innings at Pirates games. Pirate Parrot isn't above influencing the outcome by distracting or knocking over racers. The promotion started in 1999 with three characters: Sauerkraut Saul (red hat, not pictured), Cheese Chester (yellow hat) and Potato Pete, who wore blue. Jalapeño Hannah (green hat) was cooked up soon after. When the Pirates moved to PNC Park, Oliver Onion (purple) took Potato Pete's place, though Pete sometimes still appears. The pierogies travel once a year to take on the Milwaukee Brewers' racing sausages — their inspiration. They've also appeared at Nationals Park to take on the Racing Presidents, but Teddy once chased them with a fork and knife. Last summer one of the pierogies was fired for Facebook comments critical of the Pirates. The burned pierogi was hired back a few weeks later. Despite that hot potato controversy, we still find these pastries pretty tasty.
The Great Sea Race, Marlins
To add a little fun to their splashy new ballpark, the Miami Marlins added racing characters in 2012. At every home game in the middle of the sixth inning, the four water-dwelling challengers — Bob the Shark, Julio the Octopus, Angel the Stone Crab and Spike the Sea Dragon — put on their running shoes and scurry to the finish line. Unlike other MLB races, there is no designated "loser"; it’s every sea creature for himself! The characters were designed by pop artist Kenny Scharf and made by the same company that produced the Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents. Some may find these guys fishy, but we gotta admit, they float our boat.
Hall of Famer Big Heads, Oakland Athletics
On Aug. 3, 2013, the Oakland Athletics held the inaugural Hall of Famer Big Head race during the seventh inning stretch. A's legends Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Rickey Henderson are represented by runners wearing giant foam noggins. Naturally, the speedy Henderson won the inaugural race. How are a couple of relief pitchers supposed to beat the all-time leading base stealer? Well, at least they have sweet 'staches. It remains to be seen how these legends rank among MLB's other racing mascots.
Texas Legends, Rangers
In 2011, the Texas Rangers supplemented their silly "dot" race and introduced the totally awesome Texas Legends mascots race, which takes place duirng the seventh inning. The Legends comprise Sam Houston and his remarkable muttonchops; Jim Bowie, with the knife he popularized; Davy Crockett (complete with coonskin cap and rifle); and Nolan Ryan, former Rangers superstar pitcher and current Rangers owner. Leave it to the Lone Star State to provide their giant, foam-headed running mascots with weaponry.
Texas Legends (addition)
Star Houston Oilers and University of Texas running back Earl Campbell, who won the 1977 Heisman, has joined the Texas Legends as the fifth member. Maybe the tiny helmet is a weapon? "We were talking about adding a guy and Nolan said he always wanted to beat Earl Campbell in a race," said Chuck Morgan, the Rangers' executive VP in charge of ballpark entertainment and promotions. "I think he and Earl were good friends. It planted a seed." In his debut race, Earl paused in front of the real Nolan Ryan, sitting in his usual spot next to the Rangers' dugout, and struck a Heisman pose. The pause cost Campbell the race.
Racing Legends, Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks' Legends Race presented by Henkel promotion takes place following the fifth inning of every home game. The Legends — 10-foot tall men in uniform with large foam heads — represent players who have made a significant contribution to the organization on the field (from left): Mark Grace, Luis Gonzalez, Matt Williams and Randy Johnson. The Legends run a race that starts near the right-field foul pole and continues on the warning track until the finish line at the on-deck circle near the D-backs dugout. Mark Grace has never won. Evidently, he's often distracted. This group is on its way to being legendary.
Racing Presidents, Nationals
The original Racing Presidents (the same foursome on Mt. Rushmore) debuted in 2006. In 2013 they are joined by a fifth racer: William Howard Taft — nicknamed Bill or Big Chief. “Teddy has handpicked the next president for the Presidents’ Race,” Nationals COO Andy Feffer said. The 12-foot oversized mascots race from center field to first base during the fourth inning of every Nats home game. Their uniform numbers correspond with the order that they held office (George, 1; Tom, 3; Abe, 16; Teddy, 26; Bill, 27). Teddy Roosevelt broke his astounding streak of 525 losses, winning on the final day of the 2012 regular season when a hybrid of Gumby and the Phillie Phanatic took out the other three presidents. The standings for the 2012 regular season: George Washington, 30; Abraham Lincoln, 29; Thomas Jefferson, 27; Teddy Roosevelt, 1. Oh, and OF Jayson Werth won one race. Teddy has a rabid fan base and has blogs devoted to him. As a whole, the prez squad was runner-up in our election.
Famous Racing Sausages, Brewers
The Klement's Famous Racing Sausages race during the sixth inning of every home game at Miller Park. They first appeared in the '90s, but only occasionally, as to enhance the virtual racers on the video screen. In 2000, the franks became permanent fixtures, replacing their electronic counterparts. The lanky links are, from left, Italian Sausage, Hot Dog (the last one added), Brat, Chorizo and Polish Sausage. You'd have to be a real weenie not to love these guys.
Now race on over to Dayn Perry's top 10 ballparks gallery.