The battle for mascot supremacy has begun, and Gnate the Gnat can't be swatted away.
The Savannah Sand Gnats' mascot emerged as the top vote-getter after the first week of voting in MiLB.com's Mascot Mania, a contest that aims to crown the best mascot in Minor League Baseball. Gnate owns a slim lead for overall votes ahead of Toledo's Muddy the Mud Hen and Syracuse's Scooch.
Fans are being urged to help select one mascot from each league in the Minors in the first round of voting, which goes from July 18-Aug. 1. The top 14 mascots will then battle it out for the championship belt from Aug. 1-8. Fans can vote on MiLB.com and on Twitter by following @MiLB and tweeting #MascotMania along with the Twitter handle of the team whose mascot they'd like to vote for.
When fans vote online or via Twitter, they can also enter for a chance to win a 2014 MLB.TV Premium subscription, a 2014 MiLB.TV yearly subscription, gift certificates for the MLB and MiLB shops and a mascot prize pack, among other prizes.
Here's a look at the league-by-league standings after the first week:
Muddy, who describes himself as a seven-foot bird in tennis shoes, is living it up this week alongside his "main chick" Muddonna in Toledo. The bat-weilding yellow mascot is edging out Syracuse's Scooch, Gwinnett's Chopper and Indianapolis' Rowdie among the top vote-getters in the IL. Durham's Wool E. Bull has some ground to make up.
Pacific Coast League
Albuquerque's Orbit, the defending champion, owns a slim lead over Tucson's Kino Bambino, with Nashville's Ozzie a distant third. Kino's support is impressive, considering he will likely be history once the Triple-A Padres relocate to El Paso next season. Orbit, on the other hand, enjoyed the sweet taste of victory last season and has proudly displayed his belt ever since. He'll likely fight to keep it.
Pensacola's Kazoo is the league's newest mascot, but he's already a fan favorite. The Blue Wahoos' aquatic creature -- known for its blue fuzzy face, webbed feet and water gun -- is beating out Montgomery's Big Mo and Tennessee's Slugger in the first round. He's also earned the most votes among all Double-A mascots.
San Antonio's Ballapeno, who claims to be a graduate of Pepperdine University, is a green, smiling jalapeno with a hat and vest. He's also the clear-cut winner after one week of voting, crushing the likes of Northwest Arkansas' Sinker the Lake Creature and Midland's Rocky RockHound. Tulsa's Hornsby is a close fourth but nowhere near Ballapeno. All have plenty of time to make up that ground.
It looks to be an especially tight race in the Northeast this summer, with Erie's C. Wolf, Altoona's Steamer and Richmond's Nutzy all entangled in a very tight race that CNN anchor Wolf Blizter would likely term "too close to call." C. Wolf does have a slim edge in the polls, though, and contenders like Akron's Orbit (no relation to the Isotopes' champ) and Portland's Slugger the Sea Dog also have a fighting chance. Reading's Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, one of the few human mascots in the contest, ranks No. 6.
The eight-team league should produce a tight race, with early favorites being Myrtle Beach's Splash Pelican and Carolina's Muddy the Mudcat. Winston-Salem's Bolt and Wilmington's Rocky Bluewinkle are nearly tied while Frederick's Keynote sits at No. 5.
Florida State League
Unlike in presidential elections, the race isn't very close in Florida, where Clearwater's Phinley, perhaps riding the Sharknado wave of popularity, owns a commanding lead over Tampa's Blue, Lakeland's Ace and Bradenton's Marty the Marauder. Phinley has received mayoral support locally. That doesn't explain why the league's other shark mascot, Jupiter's Hamilton R. Head, is polling so poorly thus far, but it's still early in the Sunshine State. It's Phinley's race to lose at this point, though.
San Jose's Gigante owns a gigante lead in the Cal League with almost twice as many votes as Modesto's Wally the Walnut, the circuits' current runner-up. Gigante, who claims to weigh as much as 5,000 bananas, has garnered support after celebrating with the Major League Giants in last year's World Series parade. Meanwhile Wally lists his dislikes as "losing" and "not having fun," so he'll be on a mission.
South Atlantic League
Let's be honest: sand gnats, also known around the world as sandflies, are pretty nasty little flying insects known for their blood-sucking tendencies. But on the coast of Georgia? Evidently they like them. So much so that there is an unincorporated coastal community in Chatham County, Ga., called Sandfly and, of course, the Mets' Class A affiliate, the Sand Gnats, celebrates these critters year-round. Gnate the Gnat claims he has won hearts in Savannah due to his "hypnotizing dances moves, pesky charm and devilish good looks." He reached the quarterfinals in last year's Mascot Mania and currently owns the most votes of all mascots in the Minors through nearly a week of voting. Distant contenders in the Sally League include Rome's Romey and Hickory's Conrad the Crawdad, but it would take an enormous campaign swing at this point to dethrone Gnate.
One of the biggest races in the Minors, due to the league's 16 teams, the Midwest has produced two early contenders in Great Lakes' Lou E. Loon and Peoria's Homer, the current No. 2. Also in the hunt are West Michigan's Crash the River Rascal, Lansing's Big Lug and Kane County's Ozzie T. Cougar.
New York-Penn League
Aberdeen's Ferrous has a slim edge so far, but don't count out Brooklyn's Sandy the Seagull. The Cyclones enjoy the league's best attendance, and with a borough population of 2.5 million residents, the Cyclones could still pull ahead. Vermont's Champ and Staten Island's Scooter the Holy Cow round out the top four.
Sometimes being the new kid in school gives you the edge. Hillsboro's Barley only recently debuted when the Hops played their very first game last month, but the green, cap-wearing, Nike-loving hunk of grain has a comfortable lead over Spokane's Otto The Spokanasaurus and Eugene's Sluggo. With only eight teams in the league, the race is far from over.
Elizabethon may own a stronghold on winning Appy League crowns, but the E-Twins' Rookie is way behind when it comes to Mascot Mania. Princeton's Roscoe and Johnson City's Jay Cee are nearly tied in votes, with Pulaski's Slyder and Bristol's Dingbat close behind.
There are three mascots named Orbit in this year's contest, but only one currently owns a lead. Great Falls' Orbit is not one of them. In this Rookie-level circuit, it's Missoula's Ollie Osprey with a commanding lead over Orbit and Orem's Hootz. Grand Junction's Corky amd Billings' Homer are running about even at No. 4-5.