On June 8, 2011, the San Francisco Giants beat the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park, 3-1. Matt Cain pitched a complete game, and struck out 11. But otherwise, it was just another game for the reigning World Series champs.
Except for Joel Zimei. It was a pretty big day for him. You’ve probably never heard of Joel. Which is funny, because he is one of the most popular members of the Giants organization.
Since 1999, Joel has been the man behind Lou Seal, the loveable team mascot. Since he took the job 12 years ago, he has never missed a home game. Which meant that on June 8, Joel celebrated his 1000th consecutive home game as the Giants mascot, which is the longest-running streak amongst mascots in all of Major League Baseball.
I got the chance to chat with Joel about his streak, mascot Battle Royal wrestling, sweating in his costume and getting a World Series ring.
Congratulations on your 1000-game streak. It’s no small feat. It kind of makes you like the Cal Ripken, Jr of mascots.
It’s funny, my co-workers started calling me the IronSeal. There are 365 days in the year, and I’m expected to be at 81 home games. To me, there’s no excuse to ever miss a game. There are plenty of other days when I can rest. I’ve missed birthdays, family functions, and reunions, but I will not miss a Giants home game. You never know when something magic will happen.
What happened on your 1000th game?
I took the field for pre-game, like usual. I was messing around, when Renel Brooks-Moon [the public address announcer for the team] asked for the crowd’s attention. I figured out what was going on pretty quickly. There were a lot of nice things said about Lou and the streak. They even hung a banner in right field with “1000” printed on it. I was surprised, and really touched…I got a little emotional inside my suit. And it just so happens that June 8 was the same day that the front office staff got our World Series rings, so it was pretty much the best day ever.
What’s a typical game like for you?
I get in costume about 30 minutes prior to the game, then I hit the field for the pre-game, anthem and starting line-ups. After that, it’s Go! Go! Go! until the game ends. I always do my best to see as many Giants fans as possible during the game. As for breaks, I take them as needed. When I’m hot and overwhelmed, I usually duck under the dugout for some water, catch my breath, then head right back out there.
Does it get hot in the costume?
Oh yeah. Super hot. There was a study conducted by St. John’s University that determined it’s about 45 degrees hotter when you’re in a mascot costume. So if it’s an 80 degree day…that’s 125 degrees for me. The job is really fun, but it’s also very demanding physical work. Often after a long home stand, I need a couple of days to recoup and get my body back to normal. I lose a lot of water during performances, so I have to make sure to replenish well.
What are some of the perks of being Lou Seal?
That’s easy. For the rest of the year I’m the reining World Champion mascot, and I have a World Series ring to show for it.
What are some favorite memories?
There’s too many to count. Obviously winning the World Series last year was one of the highlights. But I really had fun last May at a Mexican Heritage Day celebration. We had 10 mascots wrestle in a Battle Royal. We had such a blast.
What about your most embarrassing moment?
When Barry Bonds hit his 671st home run. I was wearing boxing shorts and gloves, doing a Rocky bit we used to do. Barry smashed his home run, and the whole team piled out to celebrate. While jumping around, my shorts found their way to Lou’s ankles, and when I turned around to try and walk back, I almost tripped on the shorts. Pretty funny.
How would you describe the relationship that Lou Seal has with the city of San Francisco?
I love my city. Last year during the playoffs, we had a hospital visit downtown, and on the way back in a limo, I popped out of the sun roof. I waved to the city of people covered in orange and black, who shouted back, “Go Giants! Go get ‘em, Seal!” It was awesome. And it’s only gotten better since we won. I think the entire city and the Giants are in a mutual love-fest, and it’s beautiful.
What do you think is in the future for Lou Seal? Another World Series ring? Another 1000 games?
Who knows. But I don’t plan on going anywhere. I love my team and my city. But I do think 1000 more games and a few more rings sounds pretty good. I like the way you think.