Phillies

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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Citing huge losses in revenue, Phillies make salary cuts

Citing huge losses in revenue, Phillies make salary cuts

Projecting losses of "substantially more than $100 million," Phillies ownership on Monday instituted salary cuts for its top-earning employees.

The cuts, effective immediately, apply to employees earning more than $90,000 per year. Employees making $90,000 or less are not subject to cuts.

"Our senior executives have made significant and deep non-payroll expense cuts across the organization, but even with their best efforts, the Phillies will lose substantially more than $100 million this year," managing partner John Middleton wrote in a letter that was emailed to full-time employees and obtained by NBC Sports Philadelphia.

"These staggering losses have forced ownership and senior management to make difficult but necessary decisions, as have other clubs and businesses confronted with the impact of Covid-19, to protect the financial viability of our organization and to ensure our future. All of us, beginning with me, must make sacrifices."

Employees making over $90,000 will have a percentage of their pay reduced on a graduated basis; the higher the salary, the bigger the cut. The reductions will continue through October 31, the end of the team's fiscal year. In his letter, Middleton stated that he would forego his compensation for the balance of the year.

"While I remain hopeful that we will see baseball at Citizens Bank Park this summer, any games played will almost surely be played without fans in the ballpark which is regrettable," Middleton wrote. "The absence of fans creates an enormous financial challenge, as approximately 40 percent of our total annual revenue is generated by attendance — tickets, food and merchandise concessions, parking and sponsorships. With no fans in the stands, these sources of revenue evaporate."

Middleton stated that employees would be treated the same, whether they were on the baseball side or the business side.

In recent weeks, Phillies ownership pledged it would not cut jobs or employee benefits through October. Employees from some other teams have not been so fortunate. 

The Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A's, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds are teams known to have issued furloughs. Many other teams, including high-profile clubs such as the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers have instituted pay cuts. According to reports, 80 percent of Cubs employees have been subject to a 20 percent pay cut and Dodgers employees making over $75,000 have been cut up to 35 percent. Red Sox employees making over $50,000 have received cuts ranging from 20 to 30 percent.

"This salary reduction plan does not come close to eliminating our 2020 losses," Middleton wrote. "As a result of the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Buck and Middleton families must now invest an additional $100 million in the Phillies over the next year to ensure the continued stability of the club. During these uncertain and distressing times, our decision-making must address both short-term and long-term financial ramifications, especially since none of us knows when and how this pandemic will end. Our success historically has been defined by a culture of collaboration, and I am asking all of you to continue working with me to meet this challenge."

As the calendar turned to June on Monday, Major League Baseball and the players union continued to negotiate a way to bring the game back for a shortened season this summer. The sides remain apart on financial issues. A resolution must come in the next week or so if a season is to commence in early July.

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Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman react to the MLBPA's latest proposal, the Roy Halladay documentary and recall some of their favorite moments from the Phillies' opening playoff series in 2008.

• Are players and owners closer to a financial resolution?

• It seems like the two sides are having completely separate conversation.

• What's more likely: 82 games or 114?

• Our takeaways from the Roy Halladay documentary.

• Halladay may have ended up coaching with the Phillies.

• 1-on-1 with Cole Hamels about 2008 playoffs.

• Best moments and memories of that 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers.

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