The Reading Phillies player standing in the on-deck circle looked me square in the eye and said “He’s got the smell.”
I stood frozen for a moment before throwing up my hands apologetically and running after the smell in question: Louie, the furry green mascot of the Bowie Baysox, the double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
Louie, whose scent is a unique combination of synthetic fibers, sweat and air freshener, had just playfully tried to take the player’s bat and I was mortified, but I also knew that I was standing in the middle of a scene I would never forget and which would mean more than I could understand at the time.
This particular night was one of my first as a marketing and promotions intern for the Baysox. As far as internships go, I imagine mine was similar to most. Though it was not always exhilarating work, it was a tremendous learning experience. However, there is absolutely nothing common about the powers Louie has over me and many others.
I was dipping my toes in the waters of the professional world, practicing workplace etiquette, soaking up the experience and building my skills. But whenever Louie lifted his jersey to flash the crowd (a favorite in his arsenal and a crowd pleaser) I was immediately transformed into a lighter, more gleeful and innocent version of myself. Louie personified joy and I never tired of explaining to fans that Louie is not any particular animal, but rather “whatever you want him to be.” I never wearied of watching children break into smiles whenever they saw Louie. I will never forget the little surprises of Louie duty, like the little girl who proudly showed him her new underwear or a man who happily bear-hugged Louie while his wife couldn’t get far enough away.
I can’t imagine ever not being delighted to see him myself. College has its inherent pressures and as my four years here tick by and the credit hours accumulate, the “real” world looms. Louie was both a portal and a reminder: Life does not always need to be serious, nor every activity a resume builder. Sometimes it is important to forget the present and give in to silly, smelly and joyous naiveté.
This is a complicated world we live in. Last week we commemorated the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and for many, the wounds of that day might never heal. While we wage war in foreign nations, our politicians have faithfully waged partisan wars of their own. Dictatorial regimes continue to oppress around the world. And if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that our crumbling economy will keep me and my thousands of peers from finding steady post-graduation employment.
Everyday as a Baysox intern brought new or reinforced knowledge, but if there is one thing I took away from this summer, it’s that in this life each and every one of us deserves to find a Louie, and we should strive for nothing less.