It will be a matchup for the ages on Saturday night in Fresno, as the best mascot in the Majors will go up against the best mascot in the Minors in a battle for costumed character supremacy.
Representing the Major Leagues is the Phillie Phanatic, perhaps the most recognizable mascot in all of sports. His "opponent" for the evening will be hometown hero Parker, an affable bear who has served as the Grizzlies' mascot for the past three seasons.
Parker is a relative unknown on the national mascot scene, but don't expect that to be the case for long. Since making his in-game debut on April 14, 2006, the self-described "really tall, really heavy and really hairy" bear has made a name for himself as a skilled practitioner of the art of fan entertainment. The Phanatic, meanwhile, needs no introduction. He's enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and once attached his snout to the top of President Bush's head.
"The Phanatic is the most well-known mascot, but we think Parker will give him a run for his money," said Grizzlies director of mascot relations Bradley Collins, who is also Parker's best friend. "There will be a lot of collaborative skits that showcase the skills of both mascots and the fans will vote for their favorites with their applause."
While neither Parker nor the Phanatic is blessed with the gift of speech, I was still able to snag an email interview with both creatures. First, here are the confident ruminations of the Phanatic, transcribed by his "best friend," Tom Burgoyne.
MiLB.com: Is the Phanatic nervous about taking on the best mascot in the Minors?
Phanatic: I was more nervous standing behind the plate when Mitch Williams pitched, or standing next to John Kruk on the buffet line.
MiLB.com: If you were ever hurt, would you consider calling up Parker to take your spot?
Phanatic: I certainly would have no problem letting Parker take my spot if I ever got hurt. The Philly fans may have a tiny problem with that, however.
MiLB.com: Can you compare "Phresno" to Philadelphia?
Phanatic: Other than not spelling Fresno with a "Ph" (what's with that?), the other major difference is that a Philly cheesesteak is not really a cheesesteak in Fresno.
Equally eloquent was Parker, who, with help from Collins, provided the following thoughts on Saturday's highly anticipated event:
MiLB.com: Are you nervous about taking on the best mascot of all time?
Parker: Of course I'm nervous to be around the best mascot of all time! The Phanatic paved the way and I wouldn't be here if it weren't for a great character like the Phanatic. However, I do have home-field advantage in this matchup, which should be key. If this were in Philadelphia, I'd be put on the endangered species list very quickly!
MiLB.com: Was the Phanatic a big influence on you growing up?
Parker: I think most big-boned mascots have used the belly jiggle, ATV and other assorted gags that he's famous for. He was an influence on me, but I'm not the Phanatic -- I'm Parker. I've got a style all my own.
MiLB.com: Is there anything you think the Phanatic should learn from you?
Parker: I think I could teach the Phanatic a couple of things. First off, I work in Fresno, one of the hottest cities in the United States. Needless to say, I could give him a couple pointers about working in high temperatures. Secondly, I could show him where to find good-fitting tighty-whities. I've got a seamstress in town who models my undies to exact specifications. I think he could use a pair or two.
MiLB.com: Do you have future showdowns planned as you work toward establishing your mascot supremacy?
Parker: I sure hope so. Some other mascots I'd like to compete against would be Raymond of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pirate Parrot, or even a college mascot or someone from another league. Maybe I could get Sparty from Michigan State to take me on. I've always wanted to put myself up against a mean-looking dude like him!
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.