The Hanson Sisters -- Diane and her younger sibling Vivian -- have attended virtually every Hudson Valley Renegades game since the 2000 season. They are well known at the ballpark for their quirky routines and rituals, and if you're hoping to catch them in action when visiting the Renegades' home of Dutchess Stadium, then they're pretty easy to spot.
Just look for the dancing raccoons and wildly waving "Rally Tails."
But before getting into the specifics of the Hanson Sisters' nocturnal mammal-based dance routines, let's get this out of the way: Diane and Vivian's last name is not Hanson, but Rosati. The "Hanson Sisters" nickname was bestowed upon them by Rick "Zolz" Zolzer, the Renegades' longtime public address announcer.
"[Hanson Sisters is] actually a reference to the Paul Newman movie Slapshot," explained Vivian, who is seven years younger than Diane. "There were these three brothers on Newman's team, the Hanson Brothers. They were triplets, you know, same glasses, same hairstyle, dressed the same. And while we look alike, we're not twins. That's one thing I want to specify."
Diane began attending Renegades games in 1995, one year after the New York-Penn League club relocated from Erie, Pennsylvania. She would occasionally entice Vivian to attend with her, and after the Renegades, the Rays' Class A Short Season affiliate, won the NYPL championship in 1999 (a team that featured Josh Hamilton), the sisters upped their commitment and bought season tickets situated several rows behind home plate. Since then, Dutchess Stadium hasn't been quite the same.
"We started off waving these raccoon tails," said Diane. "We would shake them when we got a run, or even a hit. A good play. Whatever."
Raccoons are common in the Hudson Valley, and the Renegades have long employed raccoon iconography to market the team (particularly after 2013's rebranding). But the Hanson Sisters soon decided that mere rally tails were not enough. Even more raccoon was needed.
"I said 'You know, we ought to get raccoons," said Diane. "And so I looked online for lifesize puppet raccoons. Found 'em. We liked 'em. Used 'em. People thought they were great. They were funny. They were a hit. So we kept using 'em!"
A local newscaster named the raccoons Pasquale and Fauntleroy, and these names can be found on the backs of the seats in which the Hanson Sisters sit (they actually have three season tickets, two for themselves and one that houses their ever-increasing arsenal of rally gear).
"We originally thought that maybe the little kids would get a kick out of it," said Vivian. "But we're finding that people of all ages are getting a kick out of them. We put them on when our guys are up to bat. And if they get a hit we'll wave them around to whatever music they decide to play to celebrate the hit. Or if they get a home run, they have a special song -- I think it's from the group Tag Team [Naughty by Nature, actually] -- 'Hey! Ho!' We'll do our own special skit to celebrate their home run."
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Indeed, synchronized dance moves are a key component of the Hanson Sisters' experience.
"There have been a few people who've come around, they'll ask us, 'Do you guys practice your dance routines?' said Vivian. "I think that the one thing we may have practiced is our version of the chicken dance. Because, quite frankly, we don't like the original. We made up our own. We do the flap of the wings side to side, then we give the opposing team the thumb and flip the tail at them. So that's our routine."
Diane Rosati shows off her raccoon puppet and the eye chart she brings for umpires. (Sandy Tambone/MiLB.com)
The opposing team isn't the only group of ballpark denizens to be regularly lampooned by the Hanson Sisters.
"If the umpire makes a bad call, everyone says, 'Diane, get your eye chart out!'" said Diane. "I'll say, 'Ump, turn around…"
Here, Vivan chimes in as well.
"And read the top line!"
"That is an official eye chart," continued Vivian. "If any of the umps give us a dirty look, it's like 'Yeah? C'mon on. You can't do nothin' about us. You've got control over what's going on on the field. You've got no control over what's going on in the stands."
The stands are most definitely the Hanson Sisters' domain, as Renegades games afford them the opportunity to act in ways that wouldn't be as accepted elsewhere.
"This is our other persona when we're in here," said Vivian. "[Diane] used to be a teacher, she's retiring soon. I work for a supermarket, and at my job I'm not like this at all. I've got to have more of a professional approach to it.
"It's a great atmosphere here," she continued. "A lot of the people, they're almost like family because you see them so much year after year. We've just become part of the woodwork around here, it seems."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.