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Fuego’s snarling new mascot no Pepper

May 24, 2019

It’s not quite the spear through the chest that ended Rhaegal’s life — yes, it actually had a name — in Season 8 of Game of Thrones, but the reign of the dragon at Fort Marcy Ballpark may have met an untimely end nonetheless.

Goodbye, Pepper. Hello. … ?

The yet unnamed caricature unveiled Wednesday on Facebook by Pecos League President Andrew Dunn is awaiting fan feedback before debuting during next week’s meet-and-greet with the Santa Fe Fuego at the convention center. The mascot will be on display at 4 p.m. Tuesday when the team and Mayor Alan Webber come together in advance of the season opener on Thursday, May 30.

For now it is a fuzzy black thing with what is best described as flaming head with a cartoonishly angry snarl. It will soon be adorned with a black Fuego jersey and white baseball pants, something similar to the team’s more familiar mascot, Pepper.

For the uninitiated, Pepper is the fan-fave dragon, he of the plush red fur, arched black scales down his back, orange baby wings and long puffy tail.

Kids got up close and personal with him several times a night as he made his way around the Fort Marcy grandstands, and again during the in-game kids’ base run.

But hold on a second — Pepper ain’t done, yet.

Fuego general manager Yvonne Encinias described it like this onThursday: “Pepper’s not dead. He’s alive and well and will be back out there this year. Just think of this as an addition to the family, a new face for the fans to get to know.”

Think back to the team’s inception in 2012 when its part-time mascots included what can best be described as a poorly crafted Elmo doll and a giant candy corn thing meant to look like either a piece of pizza or a dipped nacho chip. The Elmo outfit reeked of body odor and bad choices, yet somehow lasted the first two seasons of the team’s existence.

The dragon came along in 2014, going through at least one name change — McGee — before a contest on Facebook led to the suggestion brought forth by Encinias’s daughter. The family dog’s name was Pepper and thought it fit the dragon perfectly.

Enter Pepper, the four-fingered puppet with the snout of a bull. Brave volunteers hand-picked by Encinias would don the suit and run around until heat exhaustion took over. “All I can say is that McGee or Pepper or whatever the thing’s name is, it’s been divorced like three times and needed to be retired,” Dunn said. “People like the dragon and I get it, but it was time for a new look.”

Encinias researched the new mascot and gave her suggestion to Dunn in the league office. What arrived at Dunn’s doorstep on Wednesday isn’t exactly what Encinias had in mind, but she admitted she’ll make it work. “I thought it would be different, but no matter what we’re keeping Pepper,” she said. “Both of them will be out there, probably at the same time or maybe one at a time. If people seem to like the new guy maybe we’ll slowly phase Pepper out.”

The early returns aren’t good for the new guy. The comments section on the team’s Facebook page were decidedly pro-dragon. Some said the new mascot is scary with one writing, “Going to scare the $&!+ out of the Kids,” and another writing, “Y’all doin pepper dirty.”

For now, it’s full steam ahead for multiple mascots roaming the concrete steps of the ol’ ballpark — but don’t get too cozy with it. As he talked about the Fuego’s new guy, Dunn admitted that he doesn’t exactly sync with the team’s primary color scheme of black and turquoise. “At least he’ll match the flames on the hats,” Dunn said.

Help wanted

Encinias said the team is in desperate need of host families for the upcoming season. The team routinely places players in homes owned by Fuego fans with the understanding that they’ll essentially be house guests for the duration of the two-month season.

The Fuego has tried in vain to land the College of Santa Fe’s vacated dormitories but until that actually happens, it needs the fans’ support.

If you’re interested, contact Encinias at 505-204-2093.

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