They wanted to see Rhubarb cheer a game-winning home run, and he waved his arms as he bounded across the room.
They wanted to see Rhubarb upset with a tough loss, and he collapsed and pounded his fists against the door.
They wanted to see Rhubarb react to a cute girl in the stands, and he flashed his best come-hither look.
They wanted to see Rhubarb interact with a muscle-bound jock, and he flexed and pointed to his noticeably flat biceps.
They threw almost every kind of scenario at Rhubarb – how to act shy, flirt with a girl several sections away, dance to funk and calm a scared child – and when the audition was almost over, Payton Foutz removed the oversized reindeer head, wiped the sweat off his brow and flashed a bright smile.
"Man," he said, "that was fun."
Foutz, a 20-year-old South Hill resident, was one of seven people auditioning this weekend to play the part of Rhubarb, the mascot of the Tacoma Rainiers. Whoever is selected will make more than 150 appearances a year, including games and community events.
The candidates met with several employees of the Triple-A baseball club at its headquarters in University Place, and then put on the Rhubarb costume – complete with a baseball jersey on top of his brown fur and a head with a Rainiers hat and large antlers.
But before the interview began in earnest, Foutz, a recent Clover Park Technical College graduate loosened the atmosphere by distributing packets of Pez candies. He impressed the panel of judges by explaining he was an Eagle Scout and with his knowledge of American Sign Language – useful because Rhubarb, like most other mascots, can’t talk.
Foutz peppered the interview with a bit of humor. His mother is battling rectal cancer, he said, and he wanted to get a tattoo with a blue ribbon. The logical place?
"I got it right on my butt," he said. "And yes, it hurt. A lot."
He donned the Rhubarb costume and went through several drills. He first had to demonstrate position awareness of several of the costume’s body parts. He then showed his range of emotions. Judges put him in several scenarios – for example, they asked how he would interact with a drunken fan – and watched his reaction. They asked him to "walk like Rhubarb would walk" and then dance to 1970s-era funk music.
The judges finished by asking Foutz if he had thought of a unique move he could demonstrate. Foutz asked Tony Canepa, the creative director for the Rainiers’ parent company, Schlegel Sports, to stand in the middle of the room. Foutz then ran behind Canepa, placed his hands on his shoulders and leaped over him.
After a few last questions, Foutz was finished – and encouraged by the audition.
"I made them laugh the whole time," he said. "I don’t think I answered any of the questions poorly – I was worried a wrong word would slip out."
The Rainiers staff will make a decision in the next few days, said team spokesman Geoff Corkum.
Foutz’s hair was matted with sweat when he stepped out of the costume. He said he considers himself to be in good shape, but he had no idea how much of a workout it was.
"It’s a lot hotter and a lot harder than most people think," said Canepa, who was a mascot during his college days at UNLV and later worked as a mascot with the Las Vegas 51s. "Plus you have to have great personality and showmanship, and you really want to entertain. You have to be somebody people want to hang out with.
"We’re really looking for someone who’s comfortable in their own skin."