Baltimore Press

Baltimore Bay runners’ Mascot Goes to School

Hal Katsman of the Baltimore Bayrunners wasn’t at Mt Washington Elementary School to scout out new talent He was there to promote the basketball team and a “stay-in-school and don’t-do-drugs” message to the children in the Beacon Summer Program.

“You can forget my name, but you can’t forget the name of your profes­sional basketball team, the Baltimore Bayrunners,” he said to the kids, eighteen in all and ranging in age from five to twelve. The Bayrunners are a franchise of the new International Basketball League, which in its gestational first year is poised to nip at the heels of the NBA.

Katsman is the Director of Youth Activities for the team. Also, he recently graduated from “Mascot school” soon will don a bright and furry suit, becoming the official mas­cot. Exactly what the mascot will be is a thinly veiled secret for now (hint: it comes from the deep).

The kids were assembled in the school’s cafeteria, ringed by the dozen computers they had a few minutes ago been playing video games on. Soon they were throwing hoops on the junior-sized and Bayrunner logo-festooned basketball goal. Cheering and laughing, the kids urged there friends on, even those who were beat­ing them.

The two kids with the most baskets would win a membership into the team’s “Kid Club” with its tantalizing birthday gifts, t-shirts, and three free passes to local games.

Had Katsman been a scout, Cory Dawkins would have been a shrewd addition to the Baltimore-bred core of the Bayrunners. He had all the charis­ma and kinetic energy of a two-foot-tall Michael Jordan. It’s not a too far of a stretch, as the team’s star draftee Shawnta Rogers himself is only 5’4”. Pencil Dawkins in for the 2014 draft.

Cory didn’t win the tickets—those went to two older boys, Brian and Simon—but his confident grin didn’t waver one inch. The two-year-old summer program is run by the teacher Tracy Demisse, a nine-year veteran of the Mt. Washington Elementary School, which she says is “wonderful, not your typical city school.” The pro­gram is an offshoot of the decade-old Beacon After School Child Program, which Dorris Johnson has run since its inception.

Katsman nee mascot will be visit­ing schools across the city and state to give elongated versions of the “stay-in-school and don’t-do-drugs” speech given in Mt Washington yes­terday.

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