“Mascots!: Sport Spectacle in the 21st Century” with AJ Mass and David Raymond on 12/7 at 7 p.m.

As part of its Fall Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present Mascots!: Sports Spectacle in the 21st Century, with nationally recognized mascot performer AJ Mass and mascot performer/builder David Raymond, on Dec. 7, 2017 at 7 p.m. in the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Storrs Center. This event coincides with the Ballard Institute’s exhibition, Mascots! Mask Performance in the 21st Century, which is on display in the Ballard Museum now through Feb. 11, 2018.

Mascot spectacle reaches millions of Americans on a daily basis in sporting events throughout the country. How and why do sports mascots inspire and enthrall modern audiences? Join mascot builders and performers David Raymond and AJ Mass as they explain the magic of mascot performance.

AJ Mass was born and raised in Flushing, New York, and studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University. He performed as the New York Mets’ Mr. Met for four years, and also with an off-Broadway improvisational comedy troupe. AJ taught theater arts to schoolchildren in the tri-state area before moving to New Jersey. He wrote about sports for TalentedMrRoto.com, capturing the attention of ESPN.com, which then began to publish his column on a weekly basis. In 2007, AJ joined the staff of ESPN.com full-time as a proud member of the ESPN Fantasy Sports team. AJ’s first book, How Fantasy Sports Explains the World: What Pujols and Peyton Can Teach Us About Wookiees and Wall Street, was published in August of 2011. His second book, Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots, was incredibly well received in April of 2014. The buzz surrounding this effort attracted the attention of Academy Award-winning film director Errol Morris, who made AJ the centerpiece of his 2015 documentary short, Being Mr. Met.

David Raymond pioneered the field of sports mascots with his innovative performance of the world-renowned Phillie Phanatic in 1978. He was the original Phanatic, and his vision and performance skills spawned a revolution in the mascot industry, leading sportscaster and baseball analyst Tim McCarver to name the Phanatic the “best mascot in baseball” in 1993. Creating fan adoration, brand leadership and sponsorship opportunities for the Phillies and the Phanatic for 16 years catapulted Raymond into the world of character branding. As the nation’s leading market consultant for character branding on and off the field, court, or in the board room, Raymond has worked with over 250 sports teams and companies across the nation through his company Raymond Entertainment Group (REG), based in West Grove, Pennsylvania. In 2006 David co-founded the Fun Department, a team-building company that specializes in low-cost employee engagement for the purposes of morale, retention, health and productivity. Raymond has been profiled by CNN, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, HBO, SiriusXM and NPR.

Admission to this event is free (donations greatly appreciated!), and refreshments will be served. Come early, and experience our puppet exhibitions, as well as the video resources in our library nook. Visitors can park in the Storrs Center Garage located at 33 Royce Circle. Parking in the Storrs Center Garage is free for the first two hours and $1 per hour thereafter, with a daily maximum charge of $8. Forums will be broadcast via Facebook Live. Call 860-486-8580 for more information or visit bimp.uconn.edu.