What's it Like to be Sammy Spartan?

The face under the mask of San Jose State mascot Sammy Spartan from 2003 - 2005 was Vince Meada, who recently graduated from SJSU with a degree in degree in marketing. Maeda spoke with Inside Sparta about his time in the costume.

Inside Sparta: When did you become Sammy Spartan?
Vince Meada: My first event was the November 1, 2003 football game against Hawaii.

IS: What made you want to do it?
VM: A former coworker of mine performed as Sammy during one football game. He had previous experience as a mascot, but had not been in a costume in a few years. It was during this game that he decided it wasn't for him and asked if I had any interest in becoming Sammy. At the time I was working for the San Jose Sharks as the assistant, or "handler", to SJ Sharkie. This gave me an outside view of what being a mascot entailed, so I decided to give it a shot.

IS: How many events did you do as Sammy?
VM: By the time I finished up my tenure as Sammy, I was working every football game, as well as all men's and women's basketball games. I worked almost every women's volleyball game as well as a few gymnastics events.

IS: What motivated you to keep up the Sammy Spartan persona game after game?
VM: Believe it or not, it wasn't hard to motivate myself for a game. I was having a blast working as Sammy, so it was easy to be enthusiastic.

IS: How much is Sammy like you, and vice-versa?
VM: The Sammy character and I didn't have a lot in common. I thought of Sammy as my alter-ego, the Superman to my Clark Kent. I would often receive feedback from people that I was quiet outside the costume, but became a completely different person inside.

IS: What was it like in the costume on hot days? How much water would you drink?
VM: The costume wasn't too bad because my body adapted to the heat. I would drink a minimum a four or five bottles of water during a game.

IS: Did you ever get into a fight with another mascot?
VM: I never got into a fight with another mascot. Not only was I representing San Jose State, but I was also I a potential role model for the kids attending the games. I knew that kids were watching me, so I kept my performances non-violent.

IS: Were you paid to be Sammy? If so, how much?
VM: I was paid a few hundred dollars each year, but more importantly I gained mascot experience that helped me get to where I am today.

IS: What is your fondest memory as Sammy Spartan?
VM: I accompanied a few student athletes to visit patients at Stanford Children's Hospital. We went room by room visiting kids trying to brighten up their day. As I was leaving a room, a parent pulled me aside and told me that I made her kid smile for the first time in a month.

IS: What was your biggest disappointment?
VM: I never got to travel and work an away game. I did work a football game at Stanford, but that's not traveling, it was a commute.

IS: What was your major at SJSU, and when did you graduate?
I graduated this spring with a degree in marketing.

IS: What were your feelings when you did your last gig?
VM: I was happy leaving the program in a better situation then I received it. That has always been my goal with whatever I do.

IS: Describe a typical event for SS - the preparation, the motivation, how you interact with the fans, how you react to negative people, how were the kids, etc...
VM: If I was working a basketball game that started at 7:00pm, I would arrive at the Event Center around 5:00pm. After moving into my dressing room, I would find my script that detailed the night's promotions. After a quick snack, I would begin dressing around 6:40pm. Even though it didn't take long for me to put the costume on I would take my time. I liked to be out on the court by 6:50pm. This gave me time to play around before the game started.

One nice thing about San Jose State events was the majority of fans were very respectful and courteous. Whenever I encountered a negative fan who wanted nothing to do with me I just walked away. I would never confront the fan and potentially escalate the situation.

IS: What are you doing now?
VM: After Sammy, I was the backup performer the San Francisco 49ers' mascot, Sourdough Sam. I filled in whenever the main performer needed me. Currently, I am working my first season as the Oakland A's mascot, Stomper. I joke that I am the only San Jose State alumni who was "drafted" by both an NFL and Major League Baseball team.

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Don Hoekwater is the Publisher of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at publisher@insidesparta.com

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