GARY | When the RailCats want to quickly advertise a promotion, they turn to a 6-foot tall cat.
"Based on our themes, we try to make our mascots match that, because they're our representation," said Amy Baran, the RailCats manager of community relations and merchandise. "When kids and families see Rusty and Rascal, they can figure out the theme better than what we have decorated around the stadium."
Last week, the RailCats celebrated mascot Rusty's birthday, so he was dressed in his uniform and an oversized birthday hat that looked like a cake.
The hat stays in storage in the RailCats mascot clubhouse until Rusty's birthday rolls around, but other costumes that Rusty and his brother Rascal change in and out of come from a company, creativity or even some fans.
The franchise uses two companies — Olympus Group in Milwaukee and Sugar's Mascot Costumes in Canada — to make repairs to the Rusty and Rascal fur and create costumes, such as Rusty's original uniform.
The team also relies on creativity to add to the mascots' wardrobe. Earlier this season, the RailCats celebrated a Halloween Day, and Rascal was dressed in a borrowed Ghost Buster's costume.
Rascal found a giant lounge chair at Menard's and uses it to watch the game from the concourse.
Any time the mascots can add to a theme, they'll try something new and find their costume extras almost anywhere.
A giant Mardi Gras mask hanging around the stadium fit perfectly over Rascal's large face, so he popped out the nose and joined the fun.
"A lot of times, they'll have something and they'll hand it and say, 'make this work,' or (we'll) be walking around and see something and if nobody's looking, they'll take it," Rascal said.
"Based on the theme night they have, they'll come to the (mascot closet) and find a way to make it work," Baran said. "The Mardi Gras mask, he just found a way to make it his."
A fan who sews contacted the mascots and asked if she could add to the wardrobe.
"We have pajama pants that one of our fans has made us several pairs of pants for different occasions," Rascal said. "That blows us away that someone is that interested in (us) that they've made us things to wear also.
"Our fans who are here regularly can tell when we wear the same things all the time."
When the "brothers" are desperate, they help each other out, as Rusty has reattached Rascal's tail with a needle and thread more than once this season after Rascal's tail was stepped on and pulled by over-eager fans.
The mascots are careful when they are able to select their uniforms before a game. The first-pitch temperature of 84 degrees at U.S. Steel Yard for Sunday's game prompted Rascal to elect to wear a thin grey shirt and pants.
Rusty, who is bigger with a round belly, can wear only the same thick uniforms in July and August that he dons in May weather.
"We have several different jerseys and that's about it until laundry day," Rascal said.