Alumnus Hathaway Instrumental in Mascot Project

He had a Wiffle ball field in the backyard of his childhood home in Grosse Pointe Woods, was a member of the Detroit Tigers' tarp crew, and was Sparty, Michigan State University’s highly popular mascot. 

Meet Robert Hathaway, Class of 2006.  

In his 15 years since graduation, he's lived a fascinating life that has taken him all the way to St. Paul, MN, where he is currently the mascot coordinator for Minnesota's National Hockey League franchise, the Minnesota Wild.

Yet, he'll never forget his humble beginnings at DLS that helped mold him into the man that he is today. He had a Wiffle ball field in the backyard of his childhood home in Grosse Pointe Woods, was a member of the Detroit Tigers' tarp crew, and was Sparty, Michigan State University’s highly popular mascot. 

Meet Robert Hathaway, Class of 2006.  

In his 15 years since graduation, he's lived a fascinating life that has taken him all the way to St. Paul, MN, where he is currently the mascot coordinator for Minnesota's National Hockey League franchise, the Minnesota Wild.

Yet, he'll never forget his humble beginnings at DLS that helped mold him into the man that he is today. 

"Being a part of a Catholic institution like De La Salle and having those kinds of Lasallian values and educators with a Christian mindset, really does impact you long term and set you up well for the future," Hathaway said. 

While attending DLS, he stayed busy with multiple extracurricular activities. He played basketball his freshman year, and was a member of the school's drama club, the Wig and Mask Society (WAMS), for all four years. 

At the time, WAMS was led by Br. Patrick McNally, a Class of 1955 St. Joseph's grad. 

"He (Br. Pat) expected a lot out of us, but in a very positive way," Hathaway said. "And, because of how he was, I remember every production I was a part of as being extremely organized."  

When he wasn't working on a WAMS production, you could probably find Hathaway working on the ball diamond in the back of his house. 

It became a weekly tradition for Hathaway and his friends to host nine-inning, Wiffleball games on Friday nights. The field was aptly named "Hathaway Field." 

It had a scoreboard and lights, and was manicured to the degree of a professional stadium, with chalk down both foul lines. 

"It became known as the Backyard Baseball League for my friends and me," Hathaway said. "And, as it picked up in popularity, the word kind of got around that this was going on, which led to more and more kids showing up on a weekly basis." 

His involvement with the game of baseball doesn't even begin to end there. 

While still a high school student, he spent many summer nights at Comerica Park, the home of the Tigers. And he didn't just attend games as a fan. 

He was a member of the team's tarp crew from 2003-06 and then again in 2008. As a part of the gig, he was responsible for placing the tarp over the dirt infield at the stadium whenever there was a weather delay. 

Another component of his job with the Tigers was changing the bags at second and third base during the middle of games. 

It's something that he had the opportunity to do during the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and during the Tigers' run to the World Series in 2006. 

"It was amazing being around major league baseball players during my time with the Tigers," Hathaway said. "And, I couldn't have asked for a more energized atmosphere than what I experienced during those playoff games in 2006."  

His various experiences with ballparks -- both on the professional level and with his own backyard diamond -- led to him enrolling in the sports and commercial turf management program at Michigan State, one of the best agriculture schools in the country.  

The program involved studying various subjects, including soil and landscape science, plant biology, pest management, and pesticide and fertilizer technology. 
  
He had tremendous aspirations of becoming a professional sports turf manager. But, his involvement in a particular extracurricular student activity sparked an interest in a far different career. 

Enter his time as Sparty, MSU's beloved mascot. 

He found out the university was looking for new students to portray the character through a floormate of his that was the "handler" for Sparty at the time.  

So, Hathaway decided to audition for the role. It didn't go as planned, as he failed to land the gig. 

He stayed persistent, though, and he auditioned for the role again eight months later. 

This time around, he nailed the audition, landing the highly coveted job of Sparty. 

As much as Hathaway was excited to don the costume, he couldn't go around campus, spreading the word that he had gotten the position. He was sworn to secrecy about being Sparty, and if word would have leaked out, he could have been stripped of his duties. 

He, in fact, only told a handful of people -- his roommate and a few immediate family members -- that he was set to portray the lovable figure. 

He had the chance to serve as Sparty for sporting events, such as football, basketball, and hockey games, and even weddings. And all the while, he wasn't allowed to speak, as part of mascot protocol.

It's not an easy task to ask of someone who has hundreds-to-thousands of people coming up to them at events, as is the case with a mascot. 

Yet, Hathaway, due to his background in WAMS, found it to be achievable.

"My years in WAMS helped me out extensively with being Sparty. It taught me to be a little more animated while in costume and being unable to talk," Hathaway said. "Sure, it could be tricky at times. But, I learned from WAMS that your body sends messages without you talking. And, being Sparty was all about non-verbal cues and acting things out." 

He graduated from the turf management program in 2008. Initially, he had jobs in the turfgrass industry with the Gary (IN) Southshore Railcats and the Schaumburg (IL) Flyers of the Northern League -- a now defunct independent baseball league -- and even the Chicago Cubs. 

During all this time, though, his love for being a mascot never left him. 

It's why after bouncing around the turfgrass industry, he took a part-time job with Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire as the team's mascot Sparky, a Dalmatian with soccer ball spots. 

Then, in 2012, the Blackhawks, Chicago's NHL franchise, reached out to him for mascot assistance, a job which required him to attend events with the team's mascot Tommy Hawk. 

He held the position until 2013, when a job with the Wild opened up. 

It was the team's mascot coordinator position. Hathaway knew that it would require a big change of scenery, but decided to apply for the gig anyways. 

He subsequently landed an interview. 

After two interviews and an audition, he was hired for the job. 

Yet, he didn't move to Minnesota right away, due to the NHL lockout. 

"I sat around my apartment in Chicago, probably for six-eight weeks, waiting for the lockout to end," Hathaway said. "I'd wake up each day and do the same thing: check to see if there was an announcement made about the lockout ending. Then, when the news finally broke in January that it was over, I left the majority of my things behind and hopped in my car to take off for Minnesota." 

The lockout ended January 6, 2013, and he's been with the organization ever since. 

In his position with the Wild, he oversees all program operations for the team's mascot Nordy, and is heavily involved in the team’s in-game presentation, working closely with the game presentation manager. 

 

 

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Hathaway has had to get creative with how he's deployed Nordy. 

With little-to-no fans at Minnesota games, Nordy has been used in a variety of different ways, including being taken around town to promote watching Wild games on TV. 

Additionally, the mascot is still at every home game, participating in a variety of activities, ranging from invisible t-shirt tosses to trying to pump up the small crowd of fans. 

De La Salle, meanwhile, is planning on unveiling its own mascot -- a Pilot (name TBD) -- in April. It's set to resemble the Pilot drawings in DLS’s Bill Fox Gymnasium that were produced in late February by the school's Visual Arts instructor John Hicks. 

 

Hathaway believes that the mascot can be a great marketing tool for DLS. 

"It's going to be a great branding opportunity for DLS, and from all accounts, the school is very invested in doing this right," Hathaway said. "It's why I believe it will become one of the biggest focal points of the DLS brand."  

Undoubtedly, Hathaway has made a name for himself in the mascot industry, a career that he never envisioned for himself during his time as a Pilot. 


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"Being a part of a Catholic institution like De La Salle and having those kinds of LaSallian values and educators with a Christian mindset, really does impact you long term and set you up well for the future," Hathaway said. 

While attending DLS, he stayed busy with multiple extracurricular activities. He played basketball his freshman year, and was a member of the school's drama club, the Wig and Mask Society (WAMS), for all four years. 

During his time with WAMS, he was a part of a number of different theatrical performances, including Damn Yankees, Music Man, and 42nd Street.

At the time, WAMS was led by Br. Patrick McNally, a Class of 1955 St. Joseph's grad. 

Br. Pat could be demanding, but in a good way, according to Hathaway.

"He expected a lot out of us, but in a very positive way," Hathaway said. "And, because of how he was, I remember every production I was a part of as being extremely organized."  

When he wasn't working on a WAMS production, you could probably find Hathaway working on the ball diamond in the back of his house. 

It became a weekly tradition for Hathaway and his friends to host nine-inning, Wiffle ball games on Friday nights. The field was aptly named "Hathaway Field." 

It had a scoreboard and lights, and was manicured to the degree of a professional stadium, with chalk down both foul lines. 

 

"It became known as the Backyard Baseball League for my friends and me," Hathaway said. "And, as it picked up in popularity, the word kind of got around that this was going on, which led to more and more kids showing up on a weekly basis." 

His involvement with the game of baseball doesn't even begin to end there. 

While still a high school student, he spent many summer nights at Comerica Park, the home of the Tigers. And he didn't just attend games as a fan. 

He was a member of the team's tarp crew from 2003-06 and then again in 2008. As a part of the gig, he was responsible for placing the tarp over the dirt infield at the stadium whenever there was a weather delay. 

Another component of his job with the Tigers was changing the bags at second and third base during the middle of games. 

It's something that he had the opportunity to do during the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and during the Tigers' run to the World Series in 2006. 

"It was amazing being around major league baseball players during my time with the Tigers," Hathaway said. "And, I couldn't have asked for a more energized atmosphere than what I experienced during those playoff games in 2006." 

Hathaway's first taste of professional baseball, though, came in the mid-to-late 1990s while attending games at historic Tiger Stadium.  

"The lights were brighter, and the grass was greener at Tiger Stadium," Hathaway said. "There was no experience like it, even when compared to Wrigley Field (in Chicago) and Fenway Park (in Boston) -- two other parks that I've been to." 

His various experiences with ballparks -- both on the professional level and with his own backyard diamond -- led to him enrolling in the sports and commercial turf management program at Michigan State, one of the best agriculture schools in the country.  

The program involved studying various subjects, including soil and landscape science, plant biology, pest management, and pesticide and fertilizer technology. 
  
He had tremendous aspirations of becoming a professional sports turf manager. But, his involvement in a particular extracurricular student activity sparked an interest in a far different career. 

Enter his time as Sparty, MSU's beloved mascot. 

He found out the university was looking for new students to portray the character through a floormate of his that was the "handler" for Sparty at the time.  

So, Hathaway decided to audition for the role. It didn't go as planned, as he failed to land the gig. 

He stayed persistent, though, and he auditioned for the role again eight months later. 

This time around, he nailed the audition, landing the highly coveted job of Sparty. 

 

As much as Hathaway was excited to don the costume, he couldn't go around campus, spreading the word that he had gotten the position. He was sworn to secrecy about being Sparty, and if word would have leaked out, he could have been stripped of his duties. 

He, in fact, only told a handful of people -- his roommate and a few immediate family members -- that he was set to portray the lovable figure. 

He had the chance to serve as Sparty for sporting events, such as football, basketball, and hockey games, and even weddings. And all the while, he wasn't allowed to speak, as part of mascot protocol.

It's not an easy task to ask of someone who has hundreds-to-thousands of people coming up to them at events, as is the case with a mascot. 

Yet, Hathaway, due to his background in WAMS, found it to be achievable.

"My years in WAMS helped me out extensively with being Sparty. It taught me to be a little more animated while in costume and being unable to talk," Hathaway said. "Sure, it could be tricky at times. But, I learned from WAMS that your body sends messages without you talking. And, being Sparty was all about non-verbal cues and acting things out." 

He graduated from the turf management program in 2008. Initially, he had jobs , in the turfgrass industry with the Gary (IN) Southshore Railcats and the Schaumburg (IL) Flyers of the Northern League -- a now defunct independent baseball league -- and even the Chicago Cubs. 

During all this time, though, his love for being a mascot never left him. 

It's why after bouncing around the turfgrass industry, he took a part-time job with Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire as the team's mascot Sparky, a Dalmatian with soccer ball spots. 

Then, in 2012, the Blackhawks, Chicago's NHL franchise, reached out to him for mascot assistance, a job which required him to attend events with the team's mascot Tommy Hawk. 

He held the position until 2013, when a job with the Wild opened up. 

It was the team's mascot coordinator position. Hathaway knew that it would require a big change of scenery, but decided to apply for the gig anyways. 

He subsequently landed an interview. 

After two interviews and an audition, he was hired for the job. 

Yet, he didn't move to Minnesota right away, due to the NHL lockout. 

"I sat around my apartment in Chicago, probably for six-eight weeks, waiting for the lockout to end," Hathaway said. "I'd wake up each day and do the same thing: check to see if there was an announcement made about the lockout ending. Then, when the news finally broke in January that it was over, I left the majority of my things behind and hopped in my car to take off for Minnesota." 

The lockout ended January 6, 2013, and he's been with the organization ever since. 

In his position with the Wild, he oversees all program operations for the team's mascot Nordy, and is heavily involved in the team’s in-game presentation, working closely with the game presentation manager. 

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Hathaway has had to get creative with how he's deployed Nordy. 

With little-to-no fans at Minnesota games, Nordy has been used in a variety of different ways, including being taken around town to promote watching Wild games on TV. 

Additionally, the mascot is still at every home game, participating in a variety of activities, ranging from invisible t-shirt tosses to trying to pump up the small crowd of fans. 

Even with the present conditions at sporting events not being entirely favorable for mascots, it hasn't changed Hathaway's opinion that they are "versatile" branding tools. 

De La Salle, meanwhile, is planning on unveiling its own mascot -- a Pilot (name TBD) -- in April. It's set to resemble the Pilot drawing in DLS’s Bill Fox Gymnasium that was produced in late February by the school's Visual Arts instructor John Hicks. 

Hathaway believes that the mascot can be a great marketing tool for DLS. 

"It's going to be a great branding opportunity for DLS, and from all accounts, the school is very invested in doing this right," Hathaway said. "It's why I believe it will become one of the biggest focal points of the DLS brand." 

As for who should portray the mascot, Hathaway believes it should be a WAMS performer who is "passionate" about the school and can have some “fun” while donning the costume. 

"I believe the mascot will be a super fun student activity that will also aid in the development of students," Hathaway commented. "Being a mascot sets you up for when you're older and have to interact with people. In this way, I think the mascot will become a very important extracurricular activity for DLS students." 

Undoubtedly, Hathaway has made a name for himself in the mascot industry, a career that he never envisioned for himself during his time as a Pilot. 


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