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Can you strut your stuff in fur?

Tacoma Rainiers need you to be their new mascot

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If you love baseball, look good in antlers and think you have what it takes to be the next Rhubarb the Reindeer, the Tacoma Rainiers is hosting mascot tryouts Jan. 12. Only a handful of people have signed up, so your chances are better than you might think.

The Weekly Volcano chatted with the former Rhubarb, 33-year-old Tony Villa, to find out what it takes to be a mascot for the AAA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. To be a successful Rhubarb first and foremost, Villa says, it takes an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm. “Everyone wants a piece of Rhubarb,” he says.

Second, he noted, the mascot must have respect for the game and the pro-athletes who have worked their whole lives to get where they are. “You’re with the best of the best,” Villa explains. “You have to have respect for them and watch out for them when you’re performing.”

Last but not least, to be Rhubarb one must have strong improvisational skills. “You have to think outside the box and be able to respond to everything,” he says. “It’s a live performance — anything can happen and often does.”

Villa, a professional actor and dancer, was hired as Rhubarb shortly after Nick Lachey took over ownership. “The new owners wanted to heighten Rhubarb’s level of audience interaction,” says Villa, who performed at 78 out of 79 home games. “It was a huge physical investment and a huge investment of energy and creativity.”

Villa says you don’t go to a game unprepared.

“You have to create a show for the audience,” Villa remarks, noting he developed magic tricks and rehearsed them to perfection. “It was a full-time job when I did it; I was fully committed to the Rainiers.”

Villa trained with the best of the best — Philadelphia Eagle’s Swoop — before becoming Rhubarb, an adolescent that loves dancing and magic and is self conscious about his antlers. 

In sports, the saying goes “no pain, no game,” and Villa knows that all too well. “It’s a real physical commitment,” he says. “I was living on Advil.”

Despite the toll it took on his body, he loved every minute of it. Villa’s favorite thing was making the day for someone whether it was an autograph for a 5-year-old or a kiss on the hand of a 60-year-old woman. “Those loyal and amazing fans who appreciated who Rhubarb was,” he recalls. 

His least favorite — hot days. “Hot days are hard on Rhubarb,” Villa says. “The temperature inside (the mascot costume) is about 120 degrees.”

For those trying out to be the next Rhubarb Villa advises, “Go bigger than what you think is too big” and “lose all sense of self-consciousness.”  “You have to leave all your inhibitions at the door; when you’re out there you’re like a clown,” he says. As Rhubarb, “You have the opportunity to be part of an incredibly loved, adored and respected icon in Tacoma.”

If you think you have what it takes, e-mail your resume to for an audition time. Tryouts start at 10 a.m. Jan. 12 at the Rainier’s Administrative Offices, located at 3560 Bridgeport Way, Suite 3E, in University Place. For more information, call 253.752.7707.

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