At nearly 7 feet tall, Rhubarb is hard to miss.
Also, he’s a reindeer.
The official mascot of the Rainiers since 1995 — the team’s debut season as the Seattle Mariners Triple-A affiliate — Rhubarb has become a major part of the minor league baseball experience in Tacoma. At least for fans of a certain age.
In fact, for kids, he is the minor league baseball experience in Tacoma.
Example: When the Rainiers kick off the 2016 season Thursday night (April 7) against the Albuquerque Isotopes, I’ll be looking forward to watching new prospect Boog Powell in action.
My 5-year-old son, on the other hand, will be fixated on Rhubarb.
The whole time.
But what you might not realize is there’s more to the Rainiers’ mascot than dance moves, antlers and antics. Much more.
Rhubarb gets it. No, really.
OK, I understand your skepticism. In public, Rhubarb is a reindeer of few — if any — words. He’s the (whacky) silent type.
But I’ve had the pleasure to really get to know him during my time at The News Tribune. And what I’ve found is a reindeer of surprising depth and substance.
With opening night around the corner, I reached out to the Rainiers mascot this week in hopes of having an enlightening conversation about all things Tacoma.
Not surprisingly, he was busy. But he did agree to answer a few of my questions via email.
Here’s what Rhubarb had to say …
Q: In baseball, “opening day” means new beginnings and optimism. Everyone’s in first place, hope springs eternal, yada, yada, yada. As Tacoma’s most famous reindeer, what has you hopeful about the future of this city?
A: The new methanol plant.
I’m kidding. I stay out of politics. And, naturally, as a reindeer, I love nature.
On a serious note, I spend most of the off-season visiting people and places in Tacoma. The schools seem to be doing a terrific job. I visit them often, and the teachers and kids are smart and funny.
Overall, it’s a city on the rise. You can see it, feel it, and my favorite — taste it.
I spend most of the off-season visiting people and places in Tacoma. The schools seem to be doing a terrific job. I visit them often, and the teachers and kids are smart and funny. Overall, it’s a city on the rise. You can see it, feel it, and my favorite — taste it.
Q: Last year, Tacoma voters signed off on a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage. It went up to $10.35 an hour in February, and will reach $12 an hour by January 2018. I guess what I’m getting at is ... does Rhubarb have a little extra change in his pockets these days? Wait, you have pockets, right?
A: I have pockets in my baseball pants, which are hand-me-downs from Stefen Romero. But I streak a lot (reminds me of my youth in the forest), so I’m careful with where I keep my money.
I used to have a chain wallet, but got rid of that in the ’90s.
Let’s be honest: I’m Rhubarb. I don’t pay for anything in this city, and the team pays me with hot dogs and offers me room and board at Cheney.
Q: While I haven’t seen any official polling, it seems safe to assume your likability among Tacomans is pretty high. I mean, my 5-year-old son would totally vote for you. Have you ever considered a career in politics? Baseball can’t last forever, after all.
A: Blasphemy! Baseball can and will last forever. And, as I said before, I stay out of politics. But I appreciate your 5-year-old’s impeccable taste and intelligence.
Q: Speaking of jobs, it seems like you have a really great one. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty great job, too. But, you know, it’s still a job. Headaches, hassles, editors, etc. What’s the toughest part of working for the Rainiers?
A: K-9 Innings Day — where fans can bring their dogs — is by far the toughest part of my job. I love the dogs. But they try to bite me. Constantly. I guess we speak different love languages.
I believe that you humans want the same thing: a good life. So schools, jobs, transportation and equity all play into that. But somehow people have been fooled into believing that those on the other side of the issue don’t all want, basically, the same thing. Which again, is a good life.
Q: In your reindeer opinion, what’s the biggest issue facing Tacoma? Jobs? Education? Equity? Transportation? The long line at MSM?
A: You know, Matt, just sitting here thinking about it, I believe that you humans want the same thing: a good life. So schools, jobs, transportation and equity all play into that.
But somehow people have been fooled into believing that those on the other side of the issue don’t all want, basically, the same thing. Which again, is a good life.
If everybody acted in the real world like they act at Cheney while watching a Rainiers game, life would be a lot easier.
Q: I’m dying to ask: What exactly is a reindeer game?
A: No idea. Literally never played one.
Q: Finally, what’s your prediction for the team this year? Think the Rainiers have a shot?
A: I keep dreaming about a parade. Ticker tape. (Pacific Coast League ) Trophy held in the air. Players riding buses and convertibles. Security detail. Thousands lining the streets.