When you think of the IronBirds, what two big, loveable, wacky creatures come to mind? None other than Ferrous and Ripcord. You've seen them at every game, maybe even taken a picture with them or gotten your hat 'eaten'. But have you ever thought about what goes into being the beloved mascots of our team? We sat down with the two individuals who play Ferrous and Ripcord to find out a little more about what it's like to be the mascot.
How did you get into mascot acting?
Ferrous: It was something I tried in my senior year of high school because I could do it without anyone knowing it was me. I didn't tell anyone except my mom so at the end of the year when my identity was revealed, all my friends and siblings were shocked it was me the whole time!
Ripcord: The IronBirds gave me my first mascot gig. I used to be a season ticket holder and loved watching Ferrous at all the games. Later, they introduced Ripcord into the mix, but you never really saw him around at games. I begged the entertainment director at the time to give me a shot at being Ripcord for one of the games. When the guy who normally played him went on vacation, I got a shot at doing it for a night and completely fell in love. When next year's season came around, the person who played Ripcord didn't come back, leaving the position open. Funny enough, for some games I played both Ripcord and Ferrous. I would start half the game as one and switch into the other suit halfway through and take on that bird's role.
What goes into portraying the characters' personalities?
Ferrous: The best way to explain it is like an out-of-body experience. I try to imagine what Ferrous looks like to fans with the big, goofy head and eyes when I do anything (e.g. waving to a fan). Ferrous does a lot of jerky, quick movements and since he is so large, all the movements I do need to be exaggerated to be visible to the crowd.
Ripcord: Ripcord and Ferrous both have different personalities. Ferrous is more of the silly, happy-go-lucky one while Ripcord is cool, sporty, and laid back. Ripcord has a strut and protects the stadium from opposing teams' fans.
How do you decide how to interact with a fan?
Ferrous: I feed off how they approach me. If they are shy, I'll give them a wave or a hug. For kids that want to do more than just watch what I am doing, I interact with them in different ways such as eating their hat or pretending to sit on them. For a lot of young kids, we can be very intimidating because of our size so it's important to read the cues they give us.
Ripcord: Agreed, I read what fans are giving me. Sometimes fans are aggressively happy and will start charging at me but because I can't always see where they are, I'll freeze to make sure I don't step on them. For other kids that are more apprehensive and might only approach Ripcord with siblings or are sneakily peeking out behind a parent, I tone it down with something simpler like a high-five or wave. The last thing I want to do is scare a little kid. It's fun to mess with teenagers too, since they think they're too cool to interact with a mascot.
Do you have any fan encounters that stick out to you?
Ferrous: Coming back for a few seasons now, there are a lot of faces in the crowd that I recognize. There are certain season ticket holders I have signature interactions with that we do every year. Being able to form connections with fans makes doing this special.
When I was the Towson Tiger in college, I snuck up behind a woman and pretended to stick her head in the tiger's mouth. She didn't realize that it was the mascot sneaking up behind her though, so in defense she punched me in the chin. That was one of the wildest interactions I've ever had.
Ripcord: A few years back, there was a little girl that kept eyeing me as I walked behind her. She was 50/50 - meaning she could go either way - being terrified or intrigued by me. I decided to give my best effort to make a friend by going up to her and sticking my finger out. I wanted her to see that there was nothing to be afraid of because I was gentle and fuzzy like a teddy bear. Eventually, when I got her to touch my hand, a light went on and she loved me. The rest of the season, she would beg her parents to go to the IronBirds games to see Ripcord. That interaction has always stuck with me.
What do you do when you're not mascot acting?
Ferrous: We are real people with full-time jobs outside of being Ferrous and Ripcord. No, I don't go to the grocery store in my Ferrous costume. I am a physical education teacher in Baltimore County.
Ripcord: I deliver chips for Herr's Potato Chips. There's a lot of interaction with customers and clients so I find my outgoing personality aides those conversations. I also volunteer at a children's camp during the summer.
What do you find most rewarding about being the mascots?
Ferrous: When I go to other minor league games, I watch the mascots to see if there's anything I can pick up or incorporate into my own routine. However, I find the mascots aren't as prominent at their games as we are at ours. Many of them only come out when they are needed whereas we both are out for as long as possible because we want to be. We love interacting with fans and being goofy on the dugouts and field.
Ripcord: For some of the kids I interact with, I hope our interaction sticks with them. Not all the kids are used to receiving one-on-one attention like that (especially if they are shy) so if I can leave at the end of the day knowing I improved a kid's experience at the game, I am happy.
Do you have any mascots you look up to and like the way they entertain?
Ferrous & Ripcord: The Philly Phanatic - he is the mascot king. The Houston Astros Orbit and the San Diego Chicken are also two that standout because they go above and beyond. It would be cool to be them (or the Oriole Bird) one day.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.