A Moment of Appreciation for Orbit:
There is no question that the Phillie Phanatic is the best mascot in baseball. There is no one more entertaining than the Phanatic on its ATV, shooting t-shirts and trolling opposing players. But there is one mascot that is starting to rise above the rest, soon to jump into a tier below the Phanatic, but above the other mascots of the MLB.
His name is Orbit, and he is the mascot of the Houston Astros.
Orbit’s origin story is a little bit sad, if only because the Astros tried to replace him with a mascot far worse. During the 1989 season, Astros marketing VP Ted Haracz wanted to bring in the mascot of the Astros’ AAA affiliate (the Tucson Toros), known as Tuffy.
Now, Tuffy looked fine and all – but does he really look like he would fit for a team named the Houston Astros? Not only did the Astros want a new, team-fitting mascot, but they also wanted one that was friendly and could serve as an “important piece in its community outreach programs.” So, the team outsourced its mascot decision to the people who would benefit most from the new community outreach programs – kids. Houston-area schoolchildren were asked to submit suggestions and designs for the new mascot. In fact, children submitted nearly 10,000 drawings to the Astros for their mascot process. The final design was actually a composite of some of the drawings submitted by children, but the team settled on the team’s current mascot, Orbit. He made his first appearance as the official Astros mascot in 1990 at a local elementary school.
Orbit had many memorable moments during his first run as an official mascot. In fact, he was once ejected by umpire Gary Darling during a game for arguing balls and strikes. It was said that Orbit had begun to unravel mentally after the Astros introduced a second mascot, named General Admission, who was taking attention away from Orbit. During the final game of the 1999 season, Orbit supposedly was so angry with owner Drayton McLane and his plans to move away from the Astrodome that he zapped General Admission with a ray gun. It is said that Orbit was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for five years, only to see the Astros lose in the 2005 World Series.
With Orbit out of the picture for the 2000 season, the Astros needed a new mascot for their move to Enron (That one hurts!) Field. The Astros settled on the abomination known as Junction Jack. He just looks confused. Why does he look like he is shocked by everything?
Either way, I think we can all agree, as baseball fans, to try to forget Junction Jack. Named for his position as the Official Railroad Engineer of the Houston Astros, Jack helped drive the train that chugs above the left field bleachers after a home run. After the 2012 season, coinciding with the Astros’ move to the American League, the Astros made the right decision to drop Junction Jack and move back to Orbit as their main mascot.
And thus, the reign of awesomeness began in 2013. Why do I love Orbit, and why should you love him too?
- He successfully avoids looking absolutely terrifying (Mr. Redlegs) and cringe-worthy (Wally, the Green Monster) designs.
- He doesn’t have the lawsuits and baggage attached like Sluggerrr
- His favorite movies are E.T., Men in Black, and Star Wars. A triple threat of good movie picks.
- He doesn’t have the vulgar gestures of Mr. Met (not linked for family reasons).
- He does things like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJouFVn6UWA
- Lest we forget the legendary prank war between Chris Archer and Orbit?
- His mask actually fits him, unlike the Phanatic: https://twitter.com/OrbitAstros/status/1287159915547635713
If he does such great things, why doesn’t Orbit get the respect he deserves? Because he’s only been around for 7 seasons. Orbit served admirably from 1990 to 1999, but after 12 years away from the team, people are bound to forget his pranks and fun-loving ways. In addition, he doesn’t have the traction and history of Bernie Brewer, Pirate Parrot, or the Swinging Friar, so it can be hard to remember sometimes who he is.
Assuming Orbit continues as the Astros mascot into the next decade of baseball, I believe that he will begin to surpass other mascots not named the Phillie Phanatic, because of his excellent pranks and pre-game antics. From his humble beginnings, Orbit has become a star in the making; here’s hoping he continues to play Jenga with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols for a few more years.
Here’s some more Orbit stuff, if you’re interested: