The life expectancy of your average male harbor seal is 20 to 25 years.

Slugger, the popular mascot of the Portland Sea Dogs, turns 24 in May, but he’s no ordinary seal. He’s more of a scamp.

As such, he has found ways to remain forever young, cavorting with umpires, frolicking with fans and gently teasing those in the third-base dugout and visiting bullpen at Hadlock Field.

He made his Hadlock debut on May 7, 1994 and overcame owner Dan Burke’s initial reluctance – “That sounds lame to me” – of a mascot. Justin LeBlanc, a Cheverus High grad and former gymnast at the University of Vermont, had a lot to do with fans embracing Slugger. It was LeBlanc who came up with many of the skits that lifted Slugger above the realm of a run-of-the-mill minor-league mascot and imbued him with personality.

“Back in the early days, we were just trying to establish: What is Slugger?” said Jim Heffley, the Sea Dogs vice president of financial and game operations, who has been with the team since its inaugural season. “Lovable and mischievous.”

There was a lot of trial and error in the early going, but LeBlanc knew he had something the day Slugger reached into the insulated bag of a ice cream vendor and tossed Sea Dogs biscuits to the crowd.


“I’m like, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta pay for those!’ ” said Matt Miller, now a 39-year-old car salesman who lives in Gorham. “Everyone loved it, but at the time, I was really mad when he first did it.”

After the game, LeBlanc sought out Miller, then a burly 15-year-old at Deering High who would go on to play football at Springfield College.

“That was hilarious,” LeBlanc told Miller. “We’ve got to do that again.”

So they set up a routine, with biscuits set aside for the skit. Miller would wander down the aisle toward the third-base dugout. Slugger would spot the vendor and, with the crowd’s help, encourage Miller to join in the Y-M-C-A dance, leaving his bag behind, of course.

“Being 6-5 and 260 pounds,” Miller said, “it wasn’t hard to do a goofy dance.”

Indeed, by throwing himself into the role of befuddled vendor so convincingly, Miller proved the perfect foil for Slugger’s biscuit redistribution caper. The crowd never grew tired of the skit, which the duo continued throughout Miller’s high school and college summers.


The biscuit routine established a foundation for future skits and succeeding mascot coordinators. Tim Jorn is now in charge of Slugger’s activities, which have expanded to include serious dance maneuvers. On St. Patrick’s Day Slugger marched ahead of kilted bagpipers in a parade and showed off moves reminiscent of Riverdance. He regularly dances at Hadlock, atop dugouts or around umpires.

Jorn, 26, came on board two years ago after five years in professional baseball as well as working with mascots at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He’s the first full-time mascot coordinator for the Sea Dogs, and has helped develop more skits and a more significant presence on social media.

The first thing Jorn noticed after coming to Maine was Slugger’s name recognition. On visits to Bangor, Boston and New Hampshire, there were always fans who called out his name.

The crowd always has a reaction for Slugger, mascot for the Portland Sea Dogs, whether he’s sneaking a Sea Dog biscuit from a vendor to a fan, or simply interacting with the thousands of people coming to Hadlock Field each year.

“I’ve been with other mascots in the same town (as the baseball team) and half the people don’t even know his name,” Jorn said, “They’ve done a really good job of branding Slugger and getting him out in the community.”

In recent years, Slugger has expanded his wardrobe to include costumes that include Captain America, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, boxer Rocky Balboa, Elvis, a Star Wars storm trooper (who, appropriately, can’t shoot straight), Harry Potter (distracted by a golden snitch), Batman (Bat-seal?), an ’80s-era aerobics instructor and both a pirate and a princess. In 2016, as a pirate, Slugger saved a young princess. Last summer, dressed as Elsa from the Disney film Frozen, Slugger rescued a young pirate.

“He got a really good reaction from the crowd,” Jorn said. “Slugger also got a few emails the next day saying thank you for bringing a female hero into a skit. We know that the character of Slugger is technically male, but for him to dress up as a female was pretty cool.”


A common theme in many of the currents skits is the sound of a scratched needle signaling an abrupt change of music, often from an upbeat dance number to a romantic ballad, leading Slugger to turn theatrically to a nearby confidante (often an umpire) for a cheek-to-cheek waltz or a leaning-off-the-bow Titanic reenactment.

“He’s gotten a lot heavier into his skits these last two years,” Jorn said. “They gave him time during games to do his skits because he does bring a special kind of entertainment value.”

Should the inspiration well ever run dry for Jorn, there’s a guy living in Gorham with a wife and a 6-year-old son who’d be willing to pull on a yellow ice cream biscuit vendor vest for old times’ sake.

“If they ever said, ‘Hey, let’s do it one more time!’ I’d be happy to get up and dance,” Miller said. “All the ushers are pretty much the same from when I was growing up. I still know some of the season ticket-holders. Then again, I’m not sure what my wife would say.”

Knowing Miller’s history, it seems clear his wife would respond in the only acceptable fashion, with a seal of approval.

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