As Mascot Mania 2013 came down to the wire during Shark Week, it was a seal who swam away from a fast-closing shark to take home the title.
The Columbus Clippers' LouSeal, top mascot in the Triple-A International League, floated to the top with nearly a third of the total Championship Round vote to claim the 2013 Mascot Mania crown. The Clearwater Threshers' aquatic friend Phinley, a shark, finished a close second, with the two combining for nearly 60 percent of the vote.
"We've been blown away by the support LouSeal has received," said Clippers Assistant Director of Promotions Seth Rhodes. "When we announced during a game that LouSeal had won the International League, our fans got to their feet and cheered -- it had really taken over the environment of the ballpark. The season is almost over, but fans are just as excited about LouSeal as they are to see the Clippers play."
Rhodes attributed LouSeal's success to his antic energy and social media appeal.
"He's kind of a crazy mascot -- he does headstands and one-handed pushups. We had an event for Big Brothers Big Sisters where he and his first mate, Crash, rappelled down a building. He has a big following online as well, drawing support from Arrested Development fans among other things. We had a lot of fun with the #SealTheDeal hashtag."
LouSeal becomes the second winner of Mascot Mania and wins the championship belt first won by Albuquerque's Orbit last year. The Clippers mascot will receive the belt at a ceremony at Huntington Park before season's end.
Phinley's spokesperson, David Deas, expressed disappointment in the second-place result but was philosophical.
"It's tough to come up short against LouSeal -- especially during Shark Week -- but we've had such great support with the community and fans," he said. "I'm really proud of the work everyone did in generating interest for Phinley."
Even the mayor of Clearwater got in on the excitement, endorsing Phinley in this video.
Asked if the advent of Discover Channel's Shark Week helped or hindered Phinley's cause, Deas was unsure. "I think it did at first, but to be honest Phinley was a little disappointed in Shark Week -- the shows were more like, 'let's find the Bigfoot of sharks' than actual shark things, you know?"
Affinity with water was apparently a key consideration for Mascot Mania voters in 2013. Apart from LouSeal and Phinley, Erie's C. Wolf came in fourth, Pensacola's Kazoo was fifth and Myrtle Beach's Splash Pelican finished 11th.
Surprisingly, flying creatures fared relatively poorly with the electorate. Savannah's Gnate the Gnat was a solid third-place finisher, but Roscoe the Rooster from Princeton and Aberdeen's Ferrous, a large gray bird, wound up further down the list.
Food and drink, despite being universally recognized as awesome baseball-related activities, also failed to capture Mascot Mania voters' allegiance; Hillsboro's Barley and San Antonio's Ballapeno finished well back.
John Parker is an editor for MiLB.com. His favorite is his namesake in Fresno.