Ladies and gentlemen, Sammy the Bearkat is going national.
While the actual Sammy may not become an American icon any time soon, the man behind the mask recently reached the national spotlight by earning a position as a professional mascot for the WNBA.
Sam Houston State University graduate student Patrick Gardenier tried out for the mascot position for a new WNBA team in Chicago on March 13 and found out the following Thursday that he had been chosen to fill the spot.
“When I found out that mascot positions are available outside of college, it sparked my interest,” Gardenier said. “I’m basically just in grad school so I can be a mascot. I love being entertaining and making people laugh and smile.”
Throughout the tryouts, cuts were made to narrow the selection to only the best of the best. The team then flew the final three candidates to Chicago for interviews and final tryouts.
“We had to go through an interview out of the suit and then they had us do different things in the suit for tryouts,” Gardenier said.
During his tryout, Gardenier donned the Sammy the Bearkat suit and brought the university mascot to the national stage for his 15 minutes of fame.
“They won’t reveal the mascot for the team until April 10,” Gardenier said. “For my try-out I wore the Sammy suit.”
A six-year veteran of the mascot profession, Gardenier expects his new position as a professional mascot to be very demanding and time consuming. He said he will probably work anywhere from 50-60 hours per week, working in the team offices and learning all the new skills required to entertain crowds of WNBA fans.
“In college, I practice things like skills, skits and tumbling,” Gardenier said. “The [WNBA] team is probably going to do things like dunks and stuff, so I’ll have to learn new stuff to go with that. It will be like a full time job.”
Gardenier began his mascot career at SHSU six years ago and currently serves as one of two students playing the part of Sammy. Spirit Programs Coordinator Jared King described Gardenier’s personality as fun-loving and outgoing.
“His dedication and passion are exactly what we needed to continue to improve our program,” King said.
The newly formed Chicago Sky became the 14th franchise in the WNBA on Sept. 20, 2005, releasing its name, logo, uniform and sky blue and yellow colors to the public. According to the Chicago Sky Web site, the name was chosen to be distinctly Chicago as well as inspirational and encouraging. The team will compete in the Eastern Conference and will host home games at the UIC Pavilion, located on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I have made a lot of relationships and met a lot of people around the country from being a mascot,” Gardenier said. “Being a mascot is really a lot of fun and a great experience.”