MIAMI — Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell weren’t the only key acquisitions this offseason by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
Add to that list Bob the Shark, Spike the Sea Dragon, Julio the Octopus and Angel the Stone Crab.
Moving into new Marlins Park and looking for something additional to pep things up during breaks in the action, Loria knew how much he’d always enjoyed Milwaukee’s Sausage Race and Washington’s Presidents Race. So Loria began to think what kind of mascot derby he could have.
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Introducing the Great Sea Race. In the middle of the sixth inning at Marlins home games, four sea creatures emerge from a gate in centerfield. They then sprint or, perhaps, waddle on the warning track before turning for home in the left-field corner and finishing at third base.
“They’re weird compared to what everybody else has,’’ said Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who has paused to watch the races. “But it means we are near the ocean, so it fits even if they are a little weird-looking.’’
That, of course, is part of the appeal. Marlins director of game presentation and events Larry Blocker said the race so far has been a big success.
“It’s worked out great,’’ Blocker said. “I see people standing and cheering for their favorite character … Kids probably like it a little more but adults like it. I saw one lady who was laughing so hard she was crying.’’
Blocker said it was Loria who came up with the idea and named the characters. Then sketches of how they should look were drawn by pop artist Kenny Scharf. The costumes were manufactured by Randy Carfagno Productions in New York, which also made Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt for the Nationals’ race.
Blocker said there’s no determination made beforehand on which creature will win. There are nine men and one woman, all in their 20s, who rotate at games inside the four costumes.
In Miami’s 16 home games, for whatever reason, Bob the Shark has been the big winner, with seven victories. Julio the Octopus has lagged behind the most, having only one win.
“Maybe the Octopus is just bigger and heavier,’’ said Blocker, wondering if perhaps the fastest runner should get some more action in him to help out poor Julio.
At least he’s doing better than Roosevelt has in Washington. Since that race started in 2006, Teddy never has won.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson