Edgar Allan Poe or Jane Austen?
Two Boston College English professors duke it out in a page-turning rumble.
He’s everybody’s favorite mascot. And nobody spills his secrets, see? . . . until now.
It’s hard to imagine a big game at Boston College these days without Baldwin leading the cheers, taking selfies with fans, and spreading joy among the BC faithful. The school’s mascot started out as an actual live bird, called Margo, whose name combined the BC colors of maroon and gold. But after the beloved bird passed away, one inspired student rented an eagle suit and wore it to a football game in 1976, thus beginning the tradition of student actors. To this day, Baldwin is portrayed not by professionals but by a collection of unpaid undergrads, who hand down advice and lore to each new class of volunteers. Students who portray Baldwin are expected to keep it a secret until they graduate. They navigate boisterous crowds in a full-body costume with surprisingly limited visibility, all while staying in character and never speaking. And through it all, they entertain us in blistering heat, on ice skates, during road races, and on every playing field imaginable.
So what’s it really like to be Baldwin? We asked eight students who currently wear the suit about everything from auditioning for the role to their craziest experiences while playing it. (And don’t worry, we’ve protected their secret identities by giving them pseudonyms.)
Oh, and if you happened to portray Baldwin while at BC, send us your favorite memories at email@example.com. We’ll publish the best responses in an upcoming issue.
Adrian Champion Baldwin actually came up to me one day at a football game. I was sitting in the front row and he gave me a huge hug. I’ll never forget that moment. It was such a happy moment for me, and I was like, if I could do that for other people here at BC, that would just be so awesome. Seeing the joy Baldwin brings to so many people, the way he gets everyone so excited and creates a sense of unity, that inspired me. He brings out the inner child in everyone. He brings out that joy, that enthusiasm, that passion and drive that BC has.
Melissa Montana Everyone has a different persona when they are Baldwin. For me, he’s everyone’s little brother and he is trying to be cool and hype up everyone and he thinks that his big brother’s the coolest. But at the same time, he’s kind of still a little kid and really goofy and does cartwheels and silly things.
Lydia Ronson I’m the youngest of four kids and we’re a BC family. I’m the last of the pack. So when my mom got the email that said “We’re hiring Baldwins,” she sent it to our family group chat. I was like, No, absolutely not, I don’t have time for it. But I went and tried out and didn’t tell anyone. My plan was to keep it a secret until I actually got it. I announced it to my family at Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve loved it ever since.
Melissa Montana When it comes to what we’re looking for at the audition, we don’t really ask for skills so much as the energy and the charisma of Baldwin. We’re like, Can we imagine you as Baldwin?
Adrian Champion We were in the Fish Field House and they played some music and had us dance around to see if we could keep our energy high. It was like twenty-five minutes of dancing and entertaining.
Lydia Ronson We started on one end and walked as if we were Baldwin. And then there are scenarios they throw at you: Fr. Leahy is walking by and he wants a photo with you. How do you pose? or, A baby’s crying. How do you react?
Levi Stone We met at Conte Forum and they looked at our skating ability. After they had seen us skate, they provided us with the Baldwin head, and they also provided us with a flag, and watched us skate around with that combination.
Mark Preston When we’re hanging out with other mascots, we sometimes try on each other’s helmets. We definitely have the hardest-to-see-out-of helmet. Like, by a mile.
Mike Marston You can only see out of his beak. Most people think you can see out of his eyes, but you can’t, and his beak faces downward. So you are constantly looking down at people’s feet. If you watch carefully, oftentimes when Baldwin’s walking around, it kind of looks like he’s staring up into the sky. And that’s because the people that are inside the suit simply can’t see anything.
Adrian Champion When we’re taking pictures, I can’t see the camera, I don’t know who’s taking the picture. I look at people’s feet as my signal for when a picture’s being taken. I’ll put my arms out, people will crowd me, and if there’s a pair of feet, when those feet move, you know the photo’s over.
Mark Preston We bought this BC beanie that’s really thick and if we fold it in a specific way and put it on right under the helmet, it kind of props it up just enough where you can see a little better than normal, and that really helps.
Lydia Ronson I’m naturally an extrovert, so that’s how I was picturing it as Baldwin. But as soon as I put on the costume, I knew it wouldn’t be the same because it’s so hard for mobility. I can’t be jumping up and down and running around because I’m going to fall over.
Adrian Champion You have to be careful of not moving too fast or too drastically, because you will knock people over or knock a beer or pizza or nachos.
Joel Whitney Every movement you have to do is so exaggerated, like nodding your head. When I nod my head in the suit, I’m literally leaning my whole body back and forth to create the slightest nod.
Lydia Ronson I can barely walk in the costume—I don’t know how people are skating.
Levi Stone I’ve played hockey since I was three, so the skating wasn’t so much an issue—more so skating with the suit on. The first time, I almost ran into one of the fire cannons. We also have to deal with the flag. If you don’t watch out where you’re placing it, you could end up stepping on it and then you’ll fall.
Mark Preston I’m basically skating blind. You can see like a tiny sliver on the ground right in front of you. So I start counting once I pass the blue line. I have about three and a half seconds before I have to turn or I’ll run into the boards.
Adrian Champion It’s the best workout of your life. It’s like being in a sauna and doing Zumba. You get really sweaty. The protocol is, you finish your shift, you take off your Baldwin costume, you flip it inside out, and then you spray it with Lysol.
Melissa Montana There was one game where there was a fifty-foot radius around Baldwin because it was just so hot and the suit hadn’t been washed. And he smelled so bad. The trainers were saying to fans, “You’re too close.”
Mark Preston I grew up in a hockey environment and the costume smells exactly like the hockey locker room: revolting. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Melissa Montana You try to mask it with Febreze, but there’s no amount of Febreze that can mask that.
Adrian Champion Recently, I bought a bottle of cologne and I sprayed Baldwin down. I got a couple of compliments like, “Hey Baldwin, you smell so good today.”
Lydia Ronson It’s all volunteer—football games, lacrosse games, any sporting event. There’s a list of events and you sign up for what you want.
Adrian Champion For a football game, there are multiple Baldwins. Fans can notice that at intermission—suddenly Baldwin is a foot shorter. There’s one that does the tailgate, one that does the march out with the cheer team, one that does the first half of the game, and one that does the second.
Jeremiah Krudapet We’re not supposed to tell anyone that we’re a Baldwin until we graduate. We have alibis for when we have to disappear for games, like, “Hey, I’m a manager for the cheer team,” or “I’m working concessions at the basketball game.” But all my roommates are big BC basketball fans, so it’s suspicious when I tell them I’m going to the game and then not actually there.
Adrian Champion I told my roommates. There’s no way that I could keep it from them and come up with excuses each time I have to play Baldwin. But outside of them, no one knows. Except, of course, my mom, who loves to brag about it and tell everyone she knows in my town.
Mark Preston It’s fun when you see people around campus that you know are a Baldwin, and you kind of do a little head nod, and everyone’s like, “How do you know that random person that you’re separated from by two whole class years?” And you’re like, “Oh, you know—just from around.”
Melissa Montana You become cooler. You definitely are like, Wow, I’m so cool right now! And then you get out of the suit and you’re like, Wow, I’m not cool anymore. No one knows what I was just doing. So frustrating.
Joel Whitney Everyone has a specific walk. I can’t describe it, but when they’re in the suit you can just look at them and be like, Oh, that’s X person.
Mike Marston There’s a protocol for if the head accidentally comes off. If it ever happens on the football field, we’re all expected to make a ring around Baldwin so he can put on his head without anybody seeing.
Adrian Champion I almost had my head fall off once. My first basketball game. I bumped the beak by accident and the head almost came off, but luckily I was able to grab it before it actually came off my head. That was a nightmare experience—it’s something you dread as a mascot.
Lydia Ronson The best part? The smile on the kids’ faces—but I can’t actually see the kids at all. But just, like, knowing. The other part is I get to act like a fool and nobody knows that it’s me.
Melissa Montana There are certain people you come to recognize while in the suit. Like, I’ll do hockey games, and there’s this one little kid who comes to every single hockey game and loves Baldwin and one time he dressed up as an eagle for Baldwin. It was just like the most heartwarming thing to see.
Joel Whitney This year I did a women’s basketball game and there were a bunch of little kids there. And after the game they were all running up to me and asking me to sign something for them. They kicked us off the court because we stayed on there for like twenty minutes after the game ended. So I had to go up to a security guard and ask for a table and I just sat there for another thirty minutes signing different things. It was awesome.
Melissa Montana It’s been one of the greatest experiences at Boston College. It’s like having this superpower because everyone on campus knows your name and knows who you are, and you immediately spark joy. It’s such a unique experience to just be able to walk around and make people happy.