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Beating the Odds: A Mascot's Journey to Baseball Fueled by WooSox Nation's Support

November 8, 2023

Reflecting on my last few years, it sure has been a roller coaster. Before the end of last season, Worcester Red Sox President Dr. Charles Steinberg came to me and asked me to write my story about how I became part of the mascot team for the WooSox. For fans

Reflecting on my last few years, it sure has been a roller coaster. Before the end of last season, Worcester Red Sox President Dr. Charles Steinberg came to me and asked me to write my story about how I became part of the mascot team for the WooSox. For fans that are reading this to understand how I came to entertain here, they must know a little more about my story.

Hello, my name is Conor Spencer, and I’m from a small town in western New York called Livonia. I have had many challenges in my life. The first one came at me the minute I was born. I have a disability called cerebral palsy. This is a group of disorders that can hinder a person's movements, balance, and motor coordination (definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website). This has affected my ability to walk, talk, and complete regular daily tasks. This disability has come with several other challenges I have had to overcome, and throughout my life.

My disability included requiring the help of "one-to-one" aides. This was a person who helped me write due to my difficulties with coordination. Then, one of the most difficult parts of my life took place: having surgery on my legs when I was in sixth grade. This procedure required me to be in double leg casts for two to three months, and then, I was wheelchair-bound for four months. I also needed braces to help my growing feet and legs stay straight. The last major challenge I face is my ability to communicate verbally.

Seventh grade is when my sports journey began. I grew up in the middle of nowhere with no siblings and two full-time working parents. Between this and living with cerebral palsy, it was challenging for me to find activities that I could participate in. When I got invited somewhere or simply wanted to go hang out in the village, I couldn’t go because there was no one able to drive me.

It wasn't until seventh grade that I found sports. One of my friends was going to join wrestling, and I thought to myself, “Oh, that sounds like fun.” So, the next day, I went up to the high school to go to an informational meeting. But sometime during the meeting, I received a phone call from my doctor rejecting my “blue card,” a form stating whether I could participate in contact sports. I was devastated. I thought I had finally found something I had a genuine interest in other than video games. The rejection was a big blow.

Over the next few days, I had a meeting with the wrestling coach, and he offered me my first job in sports, as an assistant coach. The next two years were a good start to my career in sports. It felt like I finally had structure.

“You are graduating college next year,” said Mr. A. This is where my WooSox story begins. This was said to me in the beginning of 2018 back at Monroe Community College. I never thought l could reach this point in my life. I have always struggled with my academics, but I found myself doing well at MCC, so I applied to Johnson & Wales University, where I hoped to pursue mascot acting in addition to my studies.

I applied to three schools—one in New York, one in Pennsylvania, and one in Rhode Island. The one I received an acceptance letter from was Johnson & Wales University. I was overjoyed. While looking at this college, I was in contact with the cheer coach from JWU; due to my disability, I was nervous about tryouts and fitting in. When she said she’d give me a chance, I created two major goals for myself. The first was keeping my grades up and ensuring my academic success at Monroe Community College. The second one was finishing the year strong.

When I started at Johnson & Wales, I had to try out to join their mascot team. After finding out that I made the team, that's when the real work began. It was very exciting to be best friends with Wildcat Willie, helping with fan engagement and entertaining people, and believe me, it’s hard work trying to keep up with that cat. After about six months of living the dream of being a collegiate mascot, that's when everything was shaken up. The COVID-19 pandemic started.

About a month before school, I received a text from my coach, “Team meeting tomorrow.” In this meeting, I found out that my coach was leaving the school. My heart sank. I loved having an actual coach to support me in what I was passionate about. I felt lost because I have always wanted a structural mascot program and someone to guide me in my mascot journey. Losing my coach scared me, because I had no idea what I would return to at Johnson & Wales. One of the possibilities was that I could lose my position on the team.

After three weeks back on campus, the day finally came when we had a meeting with the Johnson & Wales athletic department. This meeting provided me with the opportunity to oversee our mascot team. My job was to recruit actors, schedule them, and perform at games and events. This took up most of my time at school, and I loved it. When it came time to graduate, I felt lost again.

Throughout my time at JWU, I met Katie Oliver, who at the time worked for the WooSox' Special Events department. When approaching graduation, I wanted to get connected with the mascot program at the WooSox. Katie forwarded my information to their Coordinator of Marketing and Special Events, Eric Olafsen, who emailed back immediately to set up a meeting to get to know me.

When we met, our conversation lasted way longer than expected, because he loved my story. Before we logged off the call, he invited me out to a game that next week to watch the team. Even though I was thrilled to come to a game, I wanted to get to work and begin shadowing employees. I emailed him and asked, “Can I shadow?” Even though I love watching baseball, I love being a part of the experience, and the WooSox have nailed it.

I met up with the WooSox mascot team and loved every minute of it. I knew I wanted Polar Park to become my new summer home. The next week, I got an email from my new boss, who told me that he talked to a fellow member of the mascots team, who said the whole team liked me. That was pretty much my interview. It took time to process my onboarding. This felt like forever because I was so excited to start and become part of this experience. I finally received the job offer in my email about a week later and happily accepted!

I am much more than a mascot for the WooSox. I have also started working with the ambassadors when I am not in suit. I’m so excited to continue to be energized by WooSox Nation.