NORFOLK, VA – If you’re a regular at Norfolk Admirals games you’ve probably given him high fives and laughed at his antics. We’re talking about Salty, one of the two Admirals mascots, who patrols the concourses of the Norfolk Scope putting smiles on faces and raising the excitement level before and during home games.
The man behind Salty is a 33-year-old gentleman named Mike, who also doubles as the Peninsula Pilots mascot during the baseball season at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton. If double mascot duties aren’t enough, he also holds down a job with the City of Hampton working in the Parks and Recreation division. In addition, he is a family man, married to Jessie and has a son, 10-year-old Jeremiah.
Mike started his journey as Salty during the 2014-15 season, with a desire to move up from the Coastal Plain League which is a college summer baseball league to the pro ranks. Mike was introduced to the Admirals organization and Salty by former Admirals mascot and good friend Buddy Dunson.
“With Salty it was one of those time where I was trying to move up and I knew someone who was part of the organization and after being persistent I was finally able to get the job,” Mike said.
On game days, Mike is suited up at 6:00 to greet the fans at the gate as they make their way into Scope. Starting at 6:00, Salty also takes a timeout from greeting fans to attend birthday parties and group functions prior to puck drop. Some nights, he doesn’t get out of the suit some nights until the end of the third period.
“If it’s a close game and the crowd is real lively, I find myself getting back into my dressing room near the end of the third period,” shared Mike.
With all the slick dance moves Salty pulls off during a game, Mike notes that he hardly rehearses moves, but says his good friend Carter helps him out when there is a trending dance.
“I play around and goof off sometimes or if there are certain moves that are trends I’ll practice them. There is a friend of mine that knows all those moves so I go to him,” Mike Said. “He’ll tell me and show me moves. When I first heard about the Whip and the Nae-Nae, he said ‘Oh yea, that’s the Whip and the Nae-Nae!’ He started playing it and doing it. When there are new dance moves, he’ll say ‘Mike you gotta check this out, people will love it.'”
He also went on to say:
“By all means, I’m not a great dancer, but I love to move to music and get people dancing. If I hear a beat you’ll soon find me moving to it.”
Salty has favorite things to do with fans.
“One thing I love doing is I’ll find an empty box of popcorn and I’ll go around to people. They can’t see what’s in it, but I’ll act like I have a handful of popcorn out and they open their hand and I’ll pretend to give them some, close their hand and they’ll see there’s nothing in there. I do that mostly to adults because some kids will get upset about it. That’s something I love to do. Everybody falls for it,” said Mike. While adding, “Sliding down the handrails has become something I enjoy doing. Brings the kid out in me. At times I change my routine just so I can get my moment sliding down them.”
Salty will sometimes bring out gigantic boxing gloves to entertain the crowd. Salty’s boxing gloves routine gets rave reviews as Mike said,
“It was a big hit with the crowd. It was more positive than I thought. They’re good for any moment, but if we’re losing, I’ll bring them out and the crowd goes berserk over them. I let the kids play with them. Nobody gets to handle boxing gloves that are as big as their children. So it’s funny to let them mess around with them.”
Heat is often a factor when Mike is dressed as Salty, especially when he is doing summer events.
“When I’m doing summer events or outside events, it’s hot. Actually it’s hot even when I’m out on the ice. I’m soaking wet. I don’t feel the temperature or climate like you do. The suit keeps me insulated. Mascots only have one temperature, hot!”
Mike loves doing all community functions, but he especially enjoys putting smiles on the faces of individuals with disabilities. Saying, “I have two family members who have disabilities and that is why it holds a special place in my heart.”
Mike loves working with everyone and that’s what makes his job enjoyable saying,
“Children of all ages are fun to work with. From school functions, parades, games and birthdays. Working with adults is another treat. I find that it’s not just kids that get a kick out of mascots, but adults are just as involved.”
With all the running, hopping and stunts that mascots do, they must be physically fit too stating,
“Sometimes it’s about how you play your role, it requires you to be pretty fit. I’m in decent shape and I try to stay fit outside and inside. I try to keep up with exercising. I try to keep myself in shape. Mascoting itself keeps me in pretty good shape. All the running around, enduring the heat and all the constant physical activity.”
Mike works unique hours as Salty that requires him to be away from his wife, Jessie, and son, Jeremiah. Jessie and Jeremiah are his support system as Mike put it,
“She’s been very supportive of it. She’s always there helping me out when I need the help, whether it be making a late night dinner or something to get me relaxed a little or if it’s to get my uniform washed. She’s always been there helping me out for all these years. I give her a lot of thanks for putting up with me, because it does take a toll on the family for having to be out all day for work and then go out for hockey. She’s always been there and she’s been very helpful.”
Mike’s biggest fan is his son, Jeremiah, and according to Mike 10-year-old Jeremiah is a fanatic over mascoting and even has his very own Slyder suit and accompanies his Dad as Slyder Jr. during baseball events when Mike is performing as Slyder.
“He is a fanatic over this mascot stuff. This is like our bonding time. We’ve got something him and I relate to really well and he loves acting like me. One of the things he does all the time is put the suit on and dances around and he makes me crack up a lot of times. He learns off of me and watches me. That’s one of the funniest things is to just sit back and watch. He’s all for this and with baseball he actually joins in. Not to many Dad’s get to perform with their children,” said Mike smiling from ear to ear.
In our everyday lives we have mentors and people we cannot thank enough for helping us succeed. The world of mascoting is no different as Mike said,
“There is Buddy who is one of my mentors. If I have questions he guides me the right way. I give a lot of credit to him for how he’s led me and helped me out for ideas and understanding and he puts my job into perspective. I give a lot of credit to so many others, like the Peninsula Pilots organization and the whole Morgan family. They’re one of the greats. They help with everything. My biggest thanks goes out to the fans everywhere. Without them I couldn’t be me. I’m like the class clown, the more laughs I hear, smiles I see, pictures asked to be in and yelling out my name Salty, keeps me going. What can you say? I love the attention!”
Given his resume as Slyder and his passion for mascoting, Mike takes Salty to a whole new level game after game, while putting smiles on fans faces each game.