By Tony E. Windsor

The original “Phillie Phanatic” brought his “Power of Fun,” message to Dover and employees from the Seaford, Laurel and Woodbridge Boys and Girls Club sites were among the audience members. 

About 300 staff members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware convened in Dover recently to attend a “Blue Door Summit.” The summit is an annual event that brings B&G Club employees together to brainstorm and participate in career development workshops and seminars.

Two staff members from Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware teach original “Phillie Phantic” Dave Raymond, a new TikTok dance routine during the organization’s recent Blue Door Summit in Dover. Raymond, who portrayed the Phanatic for almost 20 years, was keynote speaker for the Summit delivering a message of “How to Have Fun.” Photo by Maddie Milligan

This year’s event was a little different than those held in previous years. The focus of the summit was “learning to have fun.” Unlike previous years, there were no administrative or operational workshops, or meetings on updated child care regulations.

When dedicating an entire summit, attracting employees from all three counties and in every facet of the organization’s operations, selecting a keynote speaker is paramount. The organization chose a man whose entire career can only be described as nothing but “fun.”

Dave Raymond, the original “Phillie Phanatic” mascot, spent two decades with the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team entertaining 60 million people in 48 states and five countries. Author of the book, “The Power of Fun,” Raymond shared stories of working his mascot magic on the field, in the stands and at corporate events and celebrity parties.

He credits his father, the late “Tubby” Raymond, with getting him an intern job with the Phillies in 1977. This provided the opening of a door that would lead to an extraordinarily exciting, but unusual, career. His father is the legendary University of Delaware football coach who in a 36-year career with the U of D, led the team to 300 wins, three national championships and his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

A 2021 article in the New York Times, “The Mascot Whisperer,” by Max Rubin, accurately described Dave Raymond and his career anomaly. “Raymond portrayed a mascot. You could say he portrayed the mascot — in the pantheon of America’s furry avatars, none is more iconic than the Phillie Phanatic, a lumpy, waddling, bright green birdlike creature with a big, trumpeting snout and a red tongue that unfurls like a party blower. 

“Raymond taught the Phanatic what became his signature moves: how to whomp his paunch, how to suction a plunger to the head of a bald man, how to stand at a distance and land rings on the plunger. His work was such a revelation that it not only established the industry standard, it basically established the industry.”

The nationally-recognized appeal of the Phanatic mascot has garnered a great deal of attention since making his debut on April 25, 1978 at the Phillies Vet Stadium in a game against the Chicago Cubs. In addition to entertaining fans during pre-game and between innings of Phillies baseball games, the Phanatic has found himself featured on a number of television shows and movies including the closing credits of the film “Rocky Balboa” in 2006, an episode of “The Simpsons,” “John and Kate Plus 8,” “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego,” “The Goldbergs,” and a visit to the set of “Late Night With Letterman,” in a bit “Getting to Know the Phillie Phanatic.”

During his presentation to the Boys & Girls Club Blue Door Summit, Raymond shared numerous stories about his time as the Phanatic and how his entire career mantra was “to have fun and make people laugh.” He called his job “the greatest job in the world.”

As he spoke, Raymond broached less enjoyable parts of his life, including how his beloved mother became deaf at a point in her life and then tragically at the age of 58 was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. During this same traumatic time in his life his marriage collapsed and his wife left him.

Ready to notify Philly management that he was ready to retire the Phanatic suit and leave the franchise, Raymond said he put the mascot outfit on during what he felt may be one of his last Philly games. Covered in the green, furry, cartoonish character and heading out to the field, he suddenly felt his deep-seated depression lift and he was cloaked in what he could only describe as “happiness.” He credits the Phillie Phanatic, which he identified publicly as his “best friend,” with helping him meet his unhappiness head-on and making the decision to be happy. He said the Phanatic “raised his happiness vibration and taught him about overcoming personal adversity.”

In 1993, Raymond retired as the Phanatic and passed the torch on to Phanatic’s new “best friend,” Tom Burgoyne.

Since retiring Raymond has been far from sedate. He formed “Raymond Entertainment,” and has helped to create and develop more than 140 costume mascots for sports teams, colleges, universities and Fortune 500 companies. Maintaining his love for Philly, he was responsible for helping create the Philadelphia Flyers National Hockey Team’s mascot “Gritty.”

Raymond’s is recognized as the foremost authority on mascots and formed the “Mascot Hall of Fame” in Whiting, Ind. in 2005. Originally founded as an online-only hall, the Mascot Hall of Fame has inducted 17 professional and college mascots, including the Philly “Phanatic,” the Oriole “Bird,” and the University of Delaware “Blue Bird.” 

 In 2013, Raymond began exploring the idea of a physical Mascot Hall of Fame museum with the city of Whiting. Soon after, a $14 million dollar museum was built. The Mascot Hall of Fame, formally “The Mascot Hall of Fame Interactive Children’s Museum,” is a hall of fame for North American sports mascots.

Recently, late night host Jimmy Kimmel was honored with the “Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl” college football game matchup between Oregon State and Utah State. Seeking to find a mascot for the Bowl game, he called on Raymond who was featured on the show as a consultant. Raymond provided several concepts for the mascot, but in the end Kimmel decided on his own design, “Jimmy Kamel,” a vomiting dromedary.

Chris Couch, executive director of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club was among the staff that attended Raymond’s Blue Door Summit presentation. Couch felt he was the perfect keynote speaker for the event. “The summit was such a great experience and you can truly feel the impact the Boys & Girls clubs have in Delaware when there are hundreds of employees in one place,” he said.  “Dave Raymond was for sure the highlight of the day. He brings an energy to the room that you walk away feeling inspired and ready to bring the power of fun into your daily life.”

Brian Daisey, program director at the Laurel B&G Club and a finalist for B&G Clubs of Delaware “Staff of the Year,” said the event and Raymond’s presentation helped to support a spirit of team. “The summit was reinforcement that we are all in this together,” he said. “When I get to see that many staff with the same goal, in one place, celebrating what we do, it is always encouraging. Dave Raymond was genuine. He believed in what he was saying and wanted to share that with others, which is contagious.”