Amanda Rykoff is a writer/contributor/columnist for espnW and a former director of business affairs for ESPN.
She also loves mascots: meeting them, collecting them and, apparently, being one of them.
Recently, espnW published video and text about her experience auditioning to become one of the Washington Nationals’ mascots.
You can check out the video of her day as George Washington below.
But she also shares with Front Row how she became “obsessed” with team mascots — and check out some photos from her personal collection above.
FR: Who came up with the story idea for the espnW piece?
Rykoff: It was a collaborative concept. My friend and co-contributor Melissa Jacobs who lives in Washington, D.C. forwarded me the Nationals’ press release about auditions to see if I knew of anybody who was interested in auditioning. I thought it could be a fun story to cover for espnW, so I pitched it up to my editors. Initially I didn’t suggest that I audition because the requirements stated that candidates must be a minimum height of 5 feet, 7 inches and I am 5’5″. I worried that because of the height of the costumes, it would be physically impossible to run without being at least the minimum required height. The initial story pitch had me reporting on the auditions with interviews and video from candidates.
Joy Russo, deputy editor of espnW, suggested that if we were to do the story for espnW, I would need to audition and write about the experience. I was thrilled because this is what I had wanted to do in the first place. I contacted Tom Davis, Entertainment Manager for the Nationals, explained the situation and requested a “waiver.” He approved my waiver and also connected me with Alex Schauffler of the Nats communications team for final approval. Within a day I had been approved as a candidate for the Racing Presidents.
FR: How did this fit in with the normal story coverage you provide?
Rykoff: This story seemed like a perfect fit for espnW. While the site’s primary focus is women’s sports, we also have stories about women and their relationship to sports. I love baseball and mascots and wanted to share this experience with the espnW audience. It’s off the beaten path and represented a great way to showcase my passion for the game and for mascots as part of the game experience.
From a logistics perspective, it didn’t impact my other work assignments at all. I went down to D.C. on Friday night, auditioned on Saturday, wrote the story on Sunday and filed it on Monday. Our video editor Ambre Moton edited the video based on the footage I filmed at the auditions. I came up to Bristol on Tuesday to interview the Harlem Globetrotters and I appeared on the espnW web series The Word on Wednesday. Just a typical week in the life of an espnW contributor!
FR: What’s your favorite mascot of all time?
Rykoff: This is a tough one. Of course I always admired the San Diego Chicken growing up, but I never met him or saw him in action. Meeting the Phillie Phanatic last year was a highlight of my mascot stalking years. I always enjoy seeing the Oriole Bird perform “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” at Camden Yards and even though I am a Yankee fan, I have a soft spot for Mr. Met. I have a Lou Seal bobble head sitting on my desk next to my computer. I haven’t yet met Bernie Brewer and hope to do so this summer on my trip to Milwaukee.
I really love the Twins’ T.C. Bear. He hits home runs in pre-game batting practice, entertains the fans during the starting lineup introductions, leads the crowd in singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game and is just generally a great mascot.