Fans witnessing Bromley Lowe’s final moments as a Major League Baseball mascot saw him taking off his size 22 floppy shoes and leaving them on the pitcher’s mound as he exited off the field for the last time on his chopper scooter.
But that wasn’t the end for Bromley Lowe as a performer…it was just the beginning.
Gameops.com: Bromley, tell us about your time with the Orioles. Best and worst moments.
Bromley Lowe: Well, I suppose I’ll begin with the worst because the worst was at my beginning…1994! When I finally was selected as The Oriole Bird, I honestly thought to myself that I would never have to do any other work or do any other job for the rest of my life. Little did I know that the ’94 baseball strike was just a few months away, and when that happened, it was really rough for me on many levels. First off, I was being paid per game, and since there wasn’t any, I had my income chopped big time! And even though I was still performing as The Bird at outside appearances, I was always a constant target for fans to lash out and tell me how bad baseball was. I remember one Christmas parade was nothing but boos!
That fall, I got a job with a group called The Sports Magic Team entertaining at Washington Capitals games, but what-do-ya-know, hockey went on a lockout in ’94, and that job couldn’t pay much either. I was so poor! Technically I think I was considered poverty that year.
As far as my best Oriole Bird experience goes, there have been really so many… going to all the All-star games events with all the other MLB mascots, spring training in Ft. Lauderdale, getting a VIP tour of the west wing of White House (Yes, in costume!) … but there actually are two moments that really stand out. One was being on the field during Cal Ripken’s 2131st consecutive game. It honestly had little to do with mascotting but it just felt so historic and surreal. The other was at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York when the Orioles donated a full Oriole Bird costume. There was a small ceremony honoring The Oriole Bird outside the Hall that drew a big crowd, and I just felt so proud of all the work that myself and my co-performers have done over the years.
I should also say that performing at Superbowl XXXV as a Baltimore Ravens mascot was another one of those unforgettable events, too.
Gameops.com: I read about your post game shoe thing….clearly a take-off on the wrestling bit (no)? Are you the first to do this? Should we all be following in your footsteps?
Lowe: Well, as far as I know, I’m the only mascot performer to do this. I didn’t think it would be entirely appropriate for me to end my career by ripping off my head, completely disrobing and streaking naked into the dugout. (Although, there were times when I thought about that). I wanted to do something that was somewhat subtle and a bit silly. So, I thought leaving my big size 22 floppy shoes on the pitcher’s mound and the end of my last game was a good way to symbolize my finality without hurting the continuity of The Oriole Bird for future performers.
To be honest, I think it would be great for other sports mascot performers to end their own careers this way, but we’ll see. It’s always up to the individual or the organization.
Gameops.com: How long have you been working with YoJo?
Lowe: On Read Across America Day, (March 2nd) of 2000 my independent character now known as YoJo did his first school comedy shows at my wife’s elementary school in Beltsville, Maryland under the name “Fuzzball” … We had some trademark issues with the name Fuzzball, so we had to do a name change a few years ago.
Gameops.com: Tell us about your school program.
Lowe: YoJo’s school assembly shows are awesome! They’re the most rewarding work I’ve ever done, and I actually prefer this venue to a sports setting. It’s sort of like this … Just imagine the high-energy and animation of a top-notch mascot. Then add a whole van-load of over sized props, banners, sound effects and audio equipment. Then also include an additional actor to enhance the comedy and entertainment. Then combine all that with a hilarious 45 minute award-winning script dealing with educational issues … Put all of that all on stage in front of an audience of hundreds of energized school kids and you can start to see what we’re all about!
Gameops.com: Who are your targeted kids?
Lowe: 98% of our shows are performed for elementary schools K-5, but we occasionally perform at non-school settings, too … wherever there’s a large group of children, we’ll perform. The “golden age” for this is probably 2nd or 3rd grade, but the older elementary school kids are cool with it, too. We don’t do birthday parties. Our shows are too big of a production for stuff like that.
Gameops.com: Do you have a sponsor, do schools pay for this? How does that work?
Lowe: Right now, most schools pay for our program out of their own budgets or PTA funds. The process is usually quite simple: We book the show, we perform the show, they love us, we get paid, and more times than not, they have us back again at some future date. It’s unfortunate that some schools cannot afford this (The price is typically just $500 + travel). I am currently trying to seek sponsors that would help us out with schools in low-income communities, because those kids are in the most need for a motivational program like this. I really hate saying no to a poorer school that don’t have the funds, but it obviously doesn’t make good business sense to give away your product for free.
We currently produce shows for reading motivation, anti-bullying, test-taking and health and fitness.
Gameops.com: What got you interested in starting the YoJo project?
Lowe: It’s a weird story really. I used to work for a group called the Middle-Atlantic Milk Marketing Association (MAMMA for short). They saw me as The Oriole Bird and wanted to hire me to perform their odd character called “That Milk Thing.” I took the job not really knowing what to expect, but they were a fantastic group of people to work with, and we did hundreds of really well done school shows up and down the East coast. I enjoyed the shows dementedly, but a few years later, MAMMA merged with another dairy council, and The Milk Thing program was unceremoniously scrapped. I felt SO horrible that this character was just going to die, so I asked them what they were doing with the costumes. They said they were going to just throw them away in the dumpster! I said I would buy the costumes from them, but they just gave me those costumes for free. Two fantastic $8,000 mascot costumes FOR FREE!
I just had to do something with this character, so I took it back to the original costume company that made it, changed his T-shirt, shoes and a complete overhaul on the looks of his face. Now the character that once was “That Milk Thing” was now something totally my own, not a team that I worked for, not a product of some other company … This creature was all mine and I was going to use all the knowledge that I ever learned from mascotting to make it into something special.
The most motivational, educational, inspirational, and entertaining big blue fuzzy guy is ready to energize your young audience.
Gameops.com: A lot of mascots have started school programs, taking off from some team and league initiatives. Do you feel like this competes with programs you did with the Orioles?
Lowe: No. You see, for many years I’ve tried to convince The Orioles in doing a first class production like this, but I suppose they didn’t see the potential in this. To the O’s, it was just fine if the Bird just had a presence at schools, and I found this pretty lame compared to the production and impact of a YoJo show. It was really only until they saw how constantly busy I was with YoJo, did they express serious interest in something like this. We even did a few “YoJo like” Oriole Bird shows, but by this time, I knew my retirement time with the club was coming close so it just never fully developed.
Gameops.com: Walk us through starting a school program. What are the steps you followed? Scripting, demo show, sponsoring, themes…give us some idea of the process you took.
Lowe: To do it right, it’s actually a very lengthy process, so I’ll sum it up in a nutshell:
- Write the script with a good motivational or educational theme. Get teachers or educators to review it (Very Important).
- If you’re independent, get your character and business legally sound – especially dealing with trademarks or copyrights (This is one step I accidentally avoided, and it cost me)!
- Purchase all the necessary costumes, props and sound equipment.
- Lay out all your music and sound effects.
- Find the right people to perform the shows with you.
- Rehearse a number of times.
- Perform some test shows and make adjustments accordingly.
Once you feel you have a solid product, work your tail off to market what you have. It can be an extremely tough sell if you have an independent character that no one has heard of. You will also be competing against a lot of well established school acts. It can be very expensive, too. I think I remember my accountant telling me that my business lost $16,000 just from these startup costs, but we made the show first-class, so in the long run it was definitely worth it.
I also can’t overemphasize talking to other entertainers in the field. Starting any business means making a lot of mistakes, but you can avoid lots of mistakes just by getting friendly with others in your field and seeking advice. To me, a friend that helped me out quite a bit was a very successful magician named Joe Romano. [www.romanomagic.com]
Gameops.com: Who else is involved?
Lowe: Well right now, I’m not only the sole performer of YoJo, but I’m also the producer, marketer, and salesman, too. The YoJo show is a two person show, so it’s very important that I hire the right actors to do the work. My show is very dependent on a solid show host. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that even though YoJo is the star and the crowd favorite, the performance of my show hosts are just as important, if not more, than YoJo himself.
Gameops.com: How many shows has YoJo been doing a year?
Lowe: We’ve done almost 500 shows since the program began in 2000. Last school year we did 160, and those were mostly in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, DC, but we also did a few in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Gameops.com: Is this the end goal, do you want to launch something larger for YoJo in the future?
Lowe: Well, if I can consistently have a good amount of shows (like 200+ in a school year) I would be very happy for now. The upcoming months are looking pretty busy. In February alone we’re scheduled to perform 48 shows.
The school shows themselves have evolved to a larger production. In fact, we just did our first assembly that also incorporated a special read-a-thon challenge, and we actually raised over $10,000 of books for the students. The top school readers even got to throw pies in their principal’s face. It was so hilarious!
Eventually, I would like to take a new performer under my wing and create a second troupe if the demand calls for it, and yes, I would definitely like to move on to bigger venues than elementary school stages……
Special thanks to Bromley Lowe for taking the time to share his new venture. Bromley has not only been a leader for many years in baseball, but who now is leading the way with his new character. Continued success to YoJo and Bromley.
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