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Standing up for the seats in Pensacola 

Empathetic Blue Wahoos staffers assign names to plastic friends
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos have named 1,800 seats available for purchase as a season ticket. Cheesecake and Pickle were the first.
February 2, 2021

America -- the band, not the country -- famously sang about having been through the desert on a horse with no name. Intrepid members of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos front office, having walked through a ballpark where the seats have no name, decided to do something about it. The Blue

America -- the band, not the country -- famously sang about having been through the desert on a horse with no name. Intrepid members of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos front office, having walked through a ballpark where the seats have no name, decided to do something about it.

The Blue Wahoos' still-developing "Adopt-A-Seat" initiative, a radical exercise in anthropomorphic empathy, seeks to confer dignity and respect upon the long-empty seats of Blue Wahoos Stadium. The team, taking advantage of a 500 days (and counting) gap between ballgames, has bestowed names upon over 1,800 seats thus far. These newly christened plastic people holders, representing over one-third of the ballpark's total capacity, are available for adoption via the purchase of a 2021 season ticket.

Blue Wahoos creative services manager Adam Waldron is the mastermind behind this quixotic endeavor, while director of communications Dan Venn has aided and abetted throughout.

"I remember I was walking on the field one day and looking at all the empty seats," said Waldron. "I like to personify inanimate objects. I thought, 'I bet the seats are really sad that no one gets to sit on them.... We shot a video and put sad music to it. It lent emotions to the seats and their situation. Our broadcaster did the voiceover. It’s a call to action. These seats miss the rear ends in them and they want your rear end in them this year. So step up and get one today."

Blue Wahoos Stadium is situated in a phenomenal location, as Pensacola Bay lies just beyond the outfield. In the past, the team has emphasized the views that season ticket holders will be able to enjoy.

"Sometimes one of us will sit in a seat, take a picture and post it. 'This could be you,'” said Venn. "We’ve done that 10 times in the last three or four months and sold all 10. The view sells the seats, but what about selling the seat itself? I felt like I had a connection to the seats."

Waldron also had a connection to the seats. So much so that he decided to name them.

"The first two seats I named were Cheesecake and Pickle. They were things I saw in the grocery store, if I recall," he said. "I thought, 'Those are fun names. I would name something Cheesecake or Pickle -- a pet or something. That’d be fun."

Cheesecake and Pickle reside next to one another in section 100, row M. They were the first to be named, but far from the last.

"We kept naming the seats. We thought it’d be funny and then the list was 50 to 75 names long," said Venn. "We kept throwing them out there and the list got even longer. We looked at each other like, 'We’re doing this, aren’t we?'"

To expedite the process, Waldron and Venn devised various categories and tried to come up with as many names in as each one as possible. They assembled this information into a spreadsheet and shared it with their co-workers, many of whom contributed names of their own. As regards the categories, many of them are straightforward. Seats named Didi, Senzel and Hamilton are part of the Blue Wahoos Legends category, for example, while the likes of Anchovy, Mullet and Pigfish can be found in the Sea Life section. Other categories include, but are not limited to, '90s Nostalgia, Sitcom Characters and Defunct Baseball Teams.

"After a while I felt the categories were bland," said Venn. "My goal was to make the categories themselves as ridiculous as possible. So one that we put in was the 'Hottest clubs named by Stefon on SNL.' And then there was 'Things that Weird Al bought in the song 'eBay.'" The former category is responsible for seats named Oontz, Ba-banaam! and Taste, while the latter resulted in gems such as Shatner's Toupee and Dr. Dre's Kleenex.

"The list is so big, and some of these names are so good. We might have to do some seat swaps to make sure the ones we’re pushing are the ones we like the most," said Venn. "[A seat named] Hand Sanitizer is in the condiments section. That's because a couple of years ago one of our fans came to a game and in the post-game survey he said we have the best mystery hot dog sauce.... But we don’t have a mystery sauce. So we did some investigating and determined that this fan had been putting hand sanitizer on his hot dog. So the Sani Dog has been a joke here, and Hand Sanitizer is seat nine in the condiments section."

Venn went on to point out that the current list of seat names is a "working document," and that some of the more bizarre designations are likely to be replaced by something more palatable. Don't expect to see advertisements for a seat named Death, in other words, even though this is one of the names listed in a category entitled "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Steve."

Despite the inherent absurdity of the undertaking, both Waldron and Venn see real value in the Adopt-A-Seat initiative.

"After you buy your season seats, your name is physically on the seats," said Venn. "But before that, these seats didn’t have names. It's something fun to sell online. I think going forward when we sell new season seats, people will get a certificate that says what they got. The name and the story behind the name. We’ll be working with our box office going forward. When they sell a new season ticket, they can cross reference it with the list and let the fan know what seats they got. Got to keep it quirky going forward."

Perhaps every seat has something to teach us, if we take the time to listen. Symbiosis between a seat and its occupant, solidified over the course of a long season, starts with learning -- and learning about -- its name.

"I think [naming inanimate objects] is an extension of the human character," said Waldron. "Not to get too deep here, but everyone named their first car, right? It’s fun to attribute human emotions to other items. It gives humanity to them, makes it easier to empathize. That’s really the idea behind it.

"They’ve been through a lot, these seats. Hurricanes. The pandemic. Our poor old plastic friends. Now it's time for us to be there for them."