When the Fredericksburg Nationals were pondering the identity of their mascot, a paradox arose.
Since the minor-league baseball team envisioned a personality unique to Fredericksburg, George and Mary Washington were unsurprisingly among the first candidates for the job. But the duties of a minor-league mascot include behavior that the Founding Fathers might have frowned upon.
“We knew we couldn’t have George or Mary Washington go on up the dugout and shake their butt,” said Robbie Perry, the team’s vice president of creative services. “George Washington wouldn’t streak across the baseball field.”
His imaginary friend would, though.
If you think you’ve been waiting a long time for baseball’s return to Fredericksburg, get in line. Gus the FredNat has been lurking in the background for more than 250 years, inconspicuous despite his purple fur and bright green eyebrows.
He was even present at Ferry Farm for the iconic cherry tree scene, video evidence of which the team released on Twitter recently.
“Once George Washington went to war, Gus stayed here,” Perry said of the mascot’s backstory. “Gus has been waiting for baseball to come back.”
When it came to crafting Gus’ look, the team turned to children’s television for inspiration. From Sesame Street to Barney to Monsters Inc., a few desired traits emerged.
“We wanted fat and fluffy,” Perry said with a laugh.
Function factored into the ultimate design as well. The team wanted a bold costume that would make for memorable photo ops but also accommodate running at a full sprint for skits between innings.
It was important to Perry that portraying Gus would be a full-time role, filled by a consistent performer with a consistent voice. The position has already been filled, Perry said.
“From somebody who’s been in the mascot suit many times myself, you will remember these people,” he said.
Since emerging from the periphery two weeks ago, Gus has kept busy, posting memes about the Netflix megahit “Tiger King” and working remotely via Zoom calls with team owner Art Silber. He’s even got his own twitter handle: @GustheFredNat.
After enduring centuries of dormancy followed by a global pandemic, it’s safe to say Gus will be ready to shake his butt whenever the first pitch of a new era is finally thrown.
“When social distancing is over, he’s going to be high-fiving every fan he comes across,” Perry said.