A few weeks ago, Cork wrote about the return of a former Tropicana Field “legend”, the Happy Heckler. Cork goes back with the Rays longer than I do, and he gave the history of the Happy Heckler and discussed what his return means to the fan environment of Tropicana Field.
With the Rays short on famous fans these days, it’s good to see the Heckler back.
In the last few years, another famous Rays fan has been all but missing in action as well. Born shortly after Rays owner Stu Sternberg made popular the cowbells as symbols of the Rays, the Cowbell Kid quickly became legendary in the Tampa Bay area for his antics and actions at Rays games. He was loud, colorful, and charismatic. ESPN showed him, newspapers wrote about him, and Bay News 9 did a feature on him. And with the Rays growing in popularity, he was the face of the fandom, a phenomenon that was set to blow up and finally put Rays fanatics on the map.
Then, like Keyser Soze, he vanished. There was no more Cowbell Kid to coordinate our cacophony club. No more Pied Piper for our percussion posse.
Here is where I have to admit, I know Cary Strukel pretty well. He is a good dude who ended up getting a night job that limited his ability to go to games. He also started taking college classes in a pursuit of a career change. So I definitely can’t fault him for putting the Cowbell gimmick on temporary hiatus.
The problem is he really hasn’t.
Although he hasn’t been to a game, hasn’t banged his bell, and hasn’t donned his big blue ‘fro in a while, Cary Strukel still tweets under the twitter handle “@CowbellKid”. Yet very few of his tweets are about the Rays. He tweets about his job, his classes, and other extracurricular activities, as many of us would.
But we are not tweeting under the handle of one of the biggest Rays fans ever. We are the face of fandom for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Cowbell Kid was, or perhaps still is. ESPN still showed clips of him leading the charge as late as last season.
(What this says about the fact that the Rays have had a dearth of charismatic fans in the last few years is a whole other article entirely.)
The bottom line is that Cary Strukel needs his own twitter account. It’s time to make @CowbellKid its own entity in the Cary Strukel universe, one independent from the regular everyday activities of Cary Strukel. @Cowbell Kid needs to be more or less “a character twitter account”, tweeting from the perspective of the blue-haired cheerleader and head bell banger. @CowbellKid should be about the Rays and talking about the Rays from a fan’s perspective.
“Going to the game. Boston sucks. #GoRays!”
“Banging my cowbell. A Yankee fan just told me where I can stick it. Banging louder!”
Cary should keep Cary to another twitter account. One where he can talk about going out for beers, staying out all night at the Hard Rock Casino, or meeting members of the opposite sex. Those aren’t what people should be reading about when they read about the Cowbell Kid, unofficial mascot loved by young and old. They are the actions of a normal guy living life in Tampa.
Now I am not advocating that Cary turn @CowbellKid into a shill rah-rah pro-Rays account. The freedom the Cowbell Kid has over official mascots such as the Raymond, the Phillie Phanatic, or Mr. Met is that if he doesn’t like something, he could and should express his opinion. But if I was wearing the viking helmet, the sunglasses, the Rays jersey, and elements of the Cowbell Kid costume, I would keep the tweets Rays-related. The Cowbell Kid should eat, breathe, sleep, and live Rays baseball. That’s the character we are used to seeing at the Trop and that’s the one that should exist in social media.
And you never know, maybe he could one day tweet about his grand return to Tropicana Field.