Monday, February 21, 2011

The Next Step

Whenever I've faced a life-changing decision, I've always written about it.  I find that writing really helps focus on what you think are the most important aspects of any decision.  It's a great way to really spell out your thoughts and identify the positives and negatives of a decision.  Another added benefit to writing about big decisions is that you'll be able to look back in time at your notes, letter, etc... to really re-connect with your thought process.  It helps re-kindle the passion and reaffirm why you made the decision in the first place.  This is one of those letters.

After 7 full seasons in Minor League Baseball, I've accepted a job offer with the Kansas City Royals as their new Mascot Coordinator and Performer.  This isn't the first time I've dabbled with MLB and their mascot programs.  Straight out of college, 22 years old, I was offered the position of the new mascot for the Chicago White Sox.  That same week I was also offered a job with a Class-A team, the Delmarva Shorebirds.  At that time I wrote myself a letter and really weighed the options of working for an MLB team or a Class A MiLB team.  Believe it or not, I chose the Class A team.  After getting a lot of input from veteran performers and the opportunity to really learn the business side of things, the Delmarva Shorebirds was the right call.  I wasn't ready for an MLB job yet, I was too cocky and too young.  It was an agonizing decision and I recall going back and forth with both teams numerous times. 

After two years on the Eastern Shore of Maryland(great vacation place, BTW), I got a job offer with the Fresno Grizzlies, the San Francisco Giants Triple A affiliate.  I wrote myself another letter.  This was easier than the previous one to write.  New Character, California, Triple A, Family nearby, new staff.  All the signs pointed in the right direction.  I knew opportunities in the mascot business like this one were few and far between.  I jumped at it and in 5 years helped make Parker one of the most recognized faces in Central California and in Baseball.  I am extremely proud of everything that was accomplished during those five years.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to take that next step with the character and in Minor League Baseball. 

So, I found myself out of a job, being supported by the State of California and my beautiful wife.  (Not a bad gig if you can get it!)  A full-time job opportunity came along and I've gone through the whole process of emotions and weighing the positives and negatives of my decision.  A very important word to me is potential.  What is the potential to this job offer?  It represents a bigger stage.  It represents a challenge to duplicate some of my successes at the Minor League Level.  It represents a new chapter.  I'm fully aware of the challenges that many MLB mascots face when it comes to skits, character development, input, recognition, etc...  I'm not going into this position thinking I'm going to set the world on fire from Day 1.  Character programs take time to build up.  The challenge for me is going to be taking an established character and re-inventing him while still staying true to the fanbase of the Royals.  People don't like change, but if it's change for the better, then eventually you win them over.  It's going to take some time.

This was a mutual decision for my wife and I.  I needed to know she was willing to take a risk and move to the Heartland with me.  She was.  None of this is possible without her.  That's another thing I've picked up along the way is a work/life balance.  If you talk to any veteran performer, the smart ones tell you to get a life outside your work.  While yes, I will be throwing myself into the character initially, I will find a life outside baseball and mascots.  It took me a while to understand that mascotting is what I do, not who I am. 

I had to make the judgment calls for this opportunity on my own.  In the past I consulted many people about every job offer that I've considered.  For this position, I did a little bit of that, but I also trusted my instinct and went into the interview process with eyes wide open and I've broken this down from many angles.  At the end of the day, with my wife's support, it was time to take my chance at the highest level.  I don't know what the future will hold, but I've had success at every step along the way.  I'm hoping to continue that streak.

Hardest part of the new gig?  Being skinny again.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Letter to My 19 Year Old Self...

Yesterday I spoke with someone from the Michigan State Alumni Association.  They had called me looking for a donation and to check up on their files, I'm assuming.  Whether or not he was being completely honest or trying to butter me up for money, the kid who called me mentioned he was thinking about trying out to be Sparty and wondered if I thought it was worth it.  I simply told him, there is nothing better you can do with your time.   This got me thinking of a better way to express to the younger generation of mascot performers, the importance of following your dreams and desires and what to expect in the trials and tribulations of being a professional mascot.  So, I decided to write a letter to myself when I was 19 to preview some lessons I've picked up along the way.  Obviously I can't change my history, but if any younger performers out there heed any of my advice, hopefully it will be beneficial to them in one way or another.  Here we go!

Dear 19 Year Old Brad,

You are about to embark on the path less traveled.  It's not going to be easy, or glamorous.  You're going to work harder than you ever had in your entire life, physically and emotionally.  You're going to make friends for a lifetime in just a few short years.  You're going to learn that building bridges is more important than burning them and you'll learn that even petty politics can trump talent every now and then.  But there is one thing about your current endeavor that no one will ever be able to take away from you. The Laughter.  You're not going to make as much money as your friends the first few years, but you'll be doing what you love.   You're going to get burnt out.  You're going to perform in front of millions of people and bring them happiness, through the simple act of becoming a character.  You're going to have to explain your profession to anyone who finds out about your job.  You'll do this seemingly every day of your life when you meet new people.  You'll come to understand that being a successful mascot is harder than being a successful actor, there are less jobs.  Don't let this stop you.  Understand there aren't perfect situations and perfect jobs.  Every one has red flags, every one will also have an upside.  Focus on the potential of a character, not the past.  Remember to have a life outside of your character work.  Don't confuse your character with who you truly are.  Take care of your body, it will make your life easier and your performance better.  Try to be as original as possible.  Understand that the right path takes time, be grateful for opportunities and seize the right ones.  Even though you think it's possible to do this on your own, listen to the ones who have been successful before you, their advice will change your life for the better.  Accept the fact that you should never stop learning.  Finally, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to live your next 10 years with no regrets.  At the end of the day, be glad you took your chance at following your passion, it's one of the things in life that truly counts.

29 Year Old Brad
The only picture of me when I was 19 I could find on my laptop.