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Suns name new mascot

March 03, 2001

Suns name new mascot



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

It was wild and Woolie at Salem Elementary School on Friday afternoon.

An afternoon assembly that featured catchy music and a cartoon-like figure had students in Salem's gym rocking with enthusiasm.

The occasion was the introduction of Woolie B., the new mascot for the Hagerstown Suns. The oversized woolly bear caterpillar will make Municipal Stadium its lair starting April 12 when the Suns open the 2001 home season against the Greensboro Bats.

He got a rousing reception from Salem mascot fans in kindergarten through fourth grade.

"I thought it was cool," said 5-year-old Hannah Knapp. "It was fun to see his costume."

"It was really cool because this was the first time I saw him," said 7-year-old Cassandra Taddei, a second-grader. "I was a little scared of him at first, but I like the new one."

The Suns front office staff was dressed in the team's new colors of black and orange - a change made after the franchise signed with the San Francisco Giants in December - as they stood on the stage and turned the announcement into a quiz for the youngsters.

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The first order of business was to announce the retirement of Jay Jay, Hagerstown's longtime, blue bird mascot which had nested at the stadium for the last eight years.

"Jay Jay is in Florida," said Joe Kuchta, the emcee for the program. "He flew away and we think he's talking with Mickey (Mouse). We heard Minnie is now his girlfriend."

The Suns selected a blue-ribbon panel of kids to figure out where the new mascot was from. After huddling on the stage, the answer was "Hagerstown."

They were right. Hagerstown is the home of the woolly bear, said Jerry Spessard of the Hagers-town Town and Country Almanack.

"We use them in October to help make the weather forecast for winter," Spessard said.

Then the search was on for the new mascot, who was supposed to enter the backstage door. The assembled crowd jumped to its feet, applauding and cheering for the big entrance.

After a couple of minutes, Kuchta took his assistant and went out into the hallway to look for Woolie B., to no avail. He re-entered wearing a makeshift Woolie B. Fan Club shirt.

Then, from the other side of the room, Woolie B. came through a door on the floor among the crowd. A "thumbs-up" cheer came from the crowd as "Woolly Bully" - a song that was a hit for Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs long before most of the crowd was alive - played.

"I liked him ... he was nice," said Evan Zheng, an 8-year-old third-grader. "He surprised me when he came out that door."

The kids joined the orange-and-black mascot, dancing to the music while rushing to touch and shake hands with Woolie B., who was wearing a Suns jersey and cap.

The blue ribbon panel members received autographed photos of Woolie and were the envy of the rest of the crowd. Later, the Suns passed out cards bearing the new mascot's likeness and signature.

After Spessard explained how the Woolly Bear is found primarily in Hagerstown, the crowd got one more chance to meet Woolie B. before heading back to class, happy to give the endorsement to the Suns' new biggest fan.

"I liked him," said Caitlin Rutherford, a 7-year-old second grader. "I liked the colors and I liked his face ... it looked like a sun.

"I was happy to be one of the first to see him."

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