The Cleveland Indians celebrated mascot Slider’s 25th birthday last Sunday, complete with appearances from a bunch of his friends from various teams, including Screech (Nationals), Ace (Blue Jays), Gapper (Reds), Paws (Tigers), Stomper (Athletics), the Phillie Phanatic and this guy:
All in all, it was a day of much fanfare (even though any celebration without Slugerrr just doesn’t feel right), as Slider and his gang went around the stadium throughout the game to hang out with fans and cause mischief. But as he hits the quarter-century mark, surrounded by his best friends (although he was iced out by his Cleveland sports mascot brethren), I can’t help but think that Slider had to take a step back at some point during the weekend and take stock of his life to this point.
Slider is, after all, a millennial, and other than the fact that he can now rent a car, there must be a ton of things going through his mind as begins the push towards 30. Millenials have become known as a generation that, when not enslaved to technology, is inclined to follow its creative dreams. To a millennial, a career and family often take a back seat to personal exploration.
This is something Slider has never experienced, and now that he’s worked for the Indians organization for 25 years, which is no doubt an admirable milestone, he likely isn’t immune to the mentality of his age group in this day and age.
So where does Slider go from here? Will he ever walk away from the Indians to work odd jobs while exploring his writing talents? Will he travel around the country searching for experiences that settle deep into his core, shaping the rest of his life? Cleveland is already constantly billed as an up-and-coming city, so Slider really doesn’t have to move far to become part of a blossoming hipster movement. If that’s what he’s looking for, of course.
Slider no doubt has hopes and dreams that go beyond working (and living) at Progressive Field, right? He’s gone 25 straight years with no time to explore his own interests, to really find out who he is. Maybe it eats away at him. Maybe tough Indians seasons like this one, which began with such high expectations, really take a toll on him.
For now, it seems like Slider might be trying to strike a balance of discovering himself while remaining with the team, evidenced by his recent nude photoshoot:
But still, the tug of a sabbatical might still be too heavy to ignore. Maybe Slider talked to Astros mascot Orbit about his 12-year absence from the team. Orbit got 12 years to explore the world before coming back to the team refreshed and invigorated, confident that being the Astros’ mascot is truly what he wants more than anything. Now, Orbit is one of the most fun mascots in all of baseball, while Junction Jack, his past replacement from 2000 to 2012, is enjoying other pursuits.
That’s not to say that Slider isn’t a great mascot, but how can he know this is the life he wants when he’s never known anything else? Of course, maybe he doesn’t need to know anything else. Maybe for once we can talk about a millennial who has always known what he wants in life.
Let’s also look at the Phillie Phanatic, who at least seems to be a similar species to Slider. The Phillie Phanatic is 37 years old, born right before the dawn of the millennials. Last weekend, when the partying was over, it’s not unreasonable to think that Slider might have asked the Phanatic how he’s been able to do it for so long.
Maybe it’s a generational thing. Sure, the Phanatic, this mysterious creature from the Galápagos Islands, is the world’s biggest Phillies fan, but that doesn’t mean he has to work for them until the day he dies. He’s always had a choice. There is no loyalty in the professional world; it’s a lie that continues to be propagated in order to gain an employee’s own trust and loyalty. This is perhaps more evident in the sports world than anywhere else.
Mascots do have the freedom to do anything they please and go anywhere they want. Many of them have realized this and taken advantage of it. Others, like the Phanatic, have been content to stay with their teams.
What will Slider’s future hold?