SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Changes have been happening both quickly and incrementally since the Ricketts family took over the Cubs in October 2009. We note with especially strong interest the improvements in the minor-league organization under the leadership of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, improvements we hope will bring a perennial contender to the North Side starting in a year or two.
Changes are likely coming to Wrigley Field soon, if Mayor Rahm Emanuel ever puts the squeeze on Ald. Tom Tunney and lets him know that he, Tunney, had better not stop hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of economic development coming into his ward. Presuming the Cubs get approval soon for the Wrigley restoration project, it will likely start this fall and be completed by 2019.
These are all good things, meant to bring the Cubs into the 21st Century, a century we hope will be a Cubs Century -- since the last one hasn't been all that great.
"We've done a couple things just with trying to get better research on our fans, and just being smarter about what our fans want," Cubs senior marketing director Alison Miller said. "We've done a lot of focus groups in the last couple of months." Among the kid-friendly topics fans were asked about were batting cages and radar gun zones, kids apps for smartphones and tablets, a kids section, a new Cubs song and "interaction with a mascot."
There's certainly nothing wrong with making Wrigley and the Cubs "more kid-friendly." Getting the next generation of fans strongly invested in the team, as I was when I was a kid, and generations before and since have been, is the way to build a strong fanbase, and keep generations connected.
But a mascot? Seriously? So many of the current mascots are mocked; only a handful of them are well-liked, and even fewer iconic. Most of them, in my view, take away from a baseball experience rather than add to it. Besides what we hope will be winning baseball on a consistent basis, the number-one thing that sells Cubs baseball is Wrigley Field. And that's not necessarily the ballpark itself, but what I mentioned above -- connecting the generations. It's knowing that if you are a Cubs fan taking your small child to a game there, that you are doing the same thing that your parents did for you, and your grandparents did for them. At 100 years old, the ballpark could have been home to four or possibly even five generations of families.
It's the memories made in that way that get a child interested in baseball and the Cubs, not a goofily-colored thing that might have only a tenuous connection to the club involved. Check out this list of current baseball mascots. Can you seriously say that more than a handful are an asset to their club?
I'm no marketing expert, that's for sure. But I've experienced 50 years of being a Cubs fan, steeped in the team's history and culture. To new Cubs marketers, I say: sure, make the ballpark kid-friendly; with the restoration, there will be plenty of space and opportunity for that. As noted in the comments to another post, one very good way of getting families with kids into the ballpark is to have family-friendly ticket prices.
But leave the mascot idea where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.