Cory Yankush, 20, volunteered for one game and has had the job since.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- A quick trivia question: Name the member of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers baseball team that gives more autographs in one game than most players are asked for in a week.
If you answered Scrappy, the amusing team mascot, you get a free autograph next game. If you haven't seen Scrappy in action, grab a car full of children and go see this valley treasure perform.
Cory Yankush, 20, is a 1999 Ursuline High School graduate and currently a student at Elon University in North Carolina.
Last year when the team needed an immediate replacement for the mascot, she volunteered for one game. She's had the job ever since.
"I thought it'd be funny if I went up and tried on the suit and just did it for the day," Yankush said.
"I love kids so I did it for the rest of the season. Then I came back this year. I love little kids. I love to hear little kids laugh."
More than a mascot: An active student at Ursuline, where her extracurricular activities ranged from softball and track to the speech team to school plays, Yankush now feels she has adopted the Scrappy identity. She doesn't simply play the part, like the Wizard of Oz.
"I think I am Scrappy," she said. "Once I'm in that suit, I act totally different than what I do when I am outside that suit. I just let everything go."
But there is no split personality here; Yankush naturally has an outgoing, vibrant demeanor. The mascot is just an extension of her pedigree.
"I'm naturally outgoing as it is," she said. "I'm naturally funny and act stupid."
Her friends from school weren't surprised to hear she perfected the mascot routine.
"When I'm in that suit, I'm an entertainer," she said. "I like to make people laugh. The kids laugh a lot when I poke at them and tickle them."
While there are plenty of fans who come to Cafaro Field just to see hitting and pitching, fielding and baserunning, there are some who attend for other reasons. Enter number 00 in the large furry costume.
"I love kids," Yankush said, emphasizing the middle word.
Crowd pleaser: At one point early in Friday's game, she had attracted a crowd of 25 kids, each seeking autographs and offering smiles in exchange. Maybe a hug, too.
There's magic in those smiles.
Later, a father took a photograph of Scrappy holding his young child. You sense Yankush is tickled just to be involved in this drama.
It's this give and take -- mascot and fan -- loving, walking stuffed animal and proud parent that transforms the night into a memory.
She is a quick study in perpetual motion, on top of a dugout dancing with the Diamond Girls one inning and the trigger person on a hot dog-firing slingshot the next.
"I run all over the place. I'm down there for the introductions," she said, waving a comical stuffed paw at the field.
"Then we have the dance in the middle of the third [inning], and then I have to come up and [entertain] the suites."
Hot homestand: Yankush performed her duties on a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago when the temperature reached 93 degrees outside. Inside the costume, it was well over 100 and the temperature took its toll.
She missed one game -- sick as a dog, if you will -- but made it back for the rest of the home games.
For a 95-pound pixie, running a mini marathon in a poorly ventilated costume is hard work.
"I know it's probably not very healthy, me being as tiny as I am. But, to me, it's worth it," she said.
Yes, some children have become afraid around Scrappy, but she loves them just the same. Just like a big family pet.
And while Yankush is a young woman, Scrappy is a male.
"I'd like to think Scrappy is a boy dog. All the players are guys and Scrappy wears a uniform like he is a player," Yankush said.