Happy Birthday Striker

Happy Birthday Striker

LEESBURG — A lot of players have worn a Leesburg Lightning uniform since the team’s first season in 2007.

But, the team’s had only one mascot.

Team officials will celebrate Striker’s birthday during the first home game every July. After the fifth inning, once kids 12 and under finish running the bases with Striker and after the last youngster crosses the plate, they will be invited to enjoy a slice of birthday cake with the “mascot of honor.”

“It’s the least we can do for Striker,” said John Meier, a member of the Lightning’s board of directors. “Striker has been a favorite of fans of all ages since our first game in 2007. He really enjoys having his picture taken with fans, especially the youngsters.

“He’s probably the biggest Lightning fan out there; his favorite pitch, we’re told, is ‘strike one’ on any opposing batter.”

Legend has it that Striker was discovered by Lightning officials before the team’s first game in 2007. According to lore, he was sitting at the entrance to Pat Thomas Stadium-Buddy Lowe Field, staring at the ballpark facade.

“I think he was walking by the ballpark one day in 2007 and smelled, quite possibly, America’s finest ballpark food,” said Chuck Johnson, Lightning public-address announcer. We invited him in, gave him a hot dog and he never left.

“We don’t know how old he is, so we’re treating the first home game in July as his birthday.”

With a baseball for a head and lightning bolts for eyebrows, he was taken in by the team, fitted for a uniform and put to work as the team mascot.

Since then, Striker has attended every Lightning home game and traveled with the team to its six appearances in the Florida Collegiate Summer League championship game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Admission is free to all Lightning home games.


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