'Li'l Jose' doll making rounds at Marlins games
By Eric Esteban
Before the start of Sunday’s Marlins game in Philadelphia, shortstop Jose Reyes was feeling adventurous.
While Miami teammates shagged fly balls and lined up for batting practice, Reyes was at Pat’s King of Steaks downing a signature sandwich and exploring the City of Brotherly Love.
How he was able to be in two places at once?
The sight-seeing Reyes is actually Marlins fans' latest craze, known best as Li’l Jose, a plush toy from Pennsylvania-based Bleacher Creatures who has become a fan favorite on Marlins telecasts on FOX Sports Florida.
The idea of FOX Sports Florida producer John Sulser, Li’l Jose was born a week ago as a product of the telecasts' creativity and extra time spent at the new Marlins Park.
“I spotted Li’l Jose at the team store, and we connected,” Sulser said. “We were messing around one day, and some of the production guys in the crew for FOX Sports have a little motorized tricycle. We were cruising around the park with Li’l Jose on the front of the bike and had a cameraman shooting him.”
Little did Sulser know when the Li’l Jose feature ran in that night’s Marlins telecast, a star would be born. FOX Sports Florida’s social media-centered telecasts, emails and Twitter Tuesdays, provided fans with fodder on the newest addition to the Fish.
“A bunch of fans started tweeting us about it, so we gave Li’l Jose a voice on twitter and launched @Lil_Jose7,” Sulser explained. “Within the day he was at 100 followers and it’s only picked up steam with 760 followers following his adventures after just five days.”
With his first road trip in the books, Li’l Jose is back home in Miami and will continue showcasing all there is to see and do at the new ballpark, in addition to fitting snuggly in the production crew’s carry-on luggage as he ventures out into the different cities and ballparks the Marlins visit.
Bleacher Creatures CEO/President Matthew Hoffman, who was caught by surprise when Bleacher Creature fans began posting on the company Facebook page about the Li’l Jose phenomena, echoed the wave of popularity currently circulating throughout the Marlins fanbase.
“Li’l Jose inspires exactly why we started this company, and I think the fact that he is authentic, clever and has a voice represents a great success story,” Hoffman said. “It’s not so much about our products as it is about connecting kids, and fans of all ages, with their favorite athletes. We’re not surprised to see Li’l Jose connect so well with fans, especially since he’s witty and creative. My wife and kids follow him and can’t get enough.”
What’s next for the biggest Li’l to make a splash in Miami since Lil Wayne became a regular presence courtside at Heat games? Sulser indicated they are building up to the big in-person/plush embrace.
“I don’t think the real Jose has gotten wind yet, so we are going to build up to that,” he said. “Eventually, the news is he’s going to have some little friends coming on. We’ve teased Li’l Giancarlo [Stanton] and Li’l LeBron [James] and soon enough Li’l Ozzie [Guillen].”
With the Marlins skipper recently swearing off tweeting, the door is open for Li’l Ozzie to make a cameo in his shortstop’s travels. Fans can only hope he will be just as colorful as the newest FOX Sports Florida Marlins broadcast star, @Lil_Jose7.