Saturday, November 17, 2018
Human Interest

ThunderBug lost her way in Lightning crowd, found redemption at All Children's

She should've known. Easy to say now. That night this past hockey season, though, she sat during a break inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, inside the mascot's locker room, inside the costume of the Lightning's ThunderBug, thinking to herself: That crowd out there. Too intense.

Kelly Frank was the Golden Knight as a student at the University of Central Florida. She was a giant gecko for the old Miami Fusion soccer team and a pig named Mudonna for independent league baseball's St. Paul Saints and a kangaroo named K-O for minor league baseball's Brockton Rox. She was Raymond for five years for the Tampa Bay Rays.

To be a mascot is a craft, an art, its practitioners insist, and the mandate is this: Know the crowd. Can't just let them sit there. Entertain them. Read them. Feel them.

The Bruins were in Tampa that night. The boisterous Boston fans made the Times Forum feel like a "powder keg." Frank's words. The Bruins had beaten the Lightning in the playoffs the year before and then went on to win the Stanley Cup. Some of their fans came to gloat.

"Stanley Cup!" bellowed one burly man wearing a black shirt with a big picture of the National Hockey League's championship trophy.

Frank approached him. ThunderBug held a furry yellow hand up to one of its nondescript ears. What?

"Stanley Cup!"

Hand to ear. What?

"STANLEY CUP!"

Frank then engaged ThunderBug's weapon of choice. The burly man quickly was covered in sticky pink streamers of silly string. At which point he sprung out of his seat and chased and tackled ThunderBug on some stairs. Security escorted him out of the arena. And Frank? Frank got fired.

She sat one morning this spring outside a Starbucks in St. Petersburg. She's 31 now. Getting on the old end for an active mascot. It was probably about time anyway. She has a bad neck and a trick back. She broke her arm when Raymond fell over a fence trying to be funny for fans. The team doctor had to fix it with plates and screws. Does she regret that her time as ThunderBug came to that kind of end? Not really. "Baseball fans can take a joke," she said.

Time to go. She got in her Toyota without a front bumper and drove downtown to All Children's Hospital. She went into a conference room as Kelly Frank and came out as the Easter Bunny. The hospital public relations man had to help her with her zipper. She now had large blue eyes and two buck teeth and fist-bumped a trauma surgeon on her way to meet with a different kind of crowd. Kids in wheelchairs. Kids with fractured limbs. Kids tethered to poles with medicine sacks. She posed for pictures. She shook their hands. She kissed their heads.

Michael Kruse can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8751. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelkruse.

Comments
Plant City police: Fleeing driver kills man as he walks to work

Plant City police: Fleeing driver kills man as he walks to work

The driver is in custody, but the fugitive who sparked Friday’s deadly incident is still being sought.
Published: 11/16/18
In Tampa, man embarks on life after years on death row

In Tampa, man embarks on life after years on death row

Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin knows what it's like to be accused. He spent 10 years on death row before new evidence, including DNA tests, helped set him free. Now he must adjust to life on the outside.
Published: 11/16/18
The would-be blockbuster shot in Tampa was supposed to combat racism. That was a century ago.

The would-be blockbuster shot in Tampa was supposed to combat racism. That was a century ago.

The producers of The Birth of a Race hailed the silent movie shot in Tampa more than a century ago as a great cinematic achievement, one they said would help race relations. It was a major bust.
Published: 11/16/18
Here’s a guide to the authors coming to the Times Festival of Reading

Here’s a guide to the authors coming to the Times Festival of Reading

Read interviews with the 2018 festival authors and reviews of their books.
Published: 11/16/18
Two SUVs collide in Pasco intersection, injuring eight people

Two SUVs collide in Pasco intersection, injuring eight people

They were all riding in the vehicles that crashed at State Road 52 and Hays Road.
Published: 11/15/18
Updated: 11/16/18
The Zola Twitter saga went viral. The ‘Zola’ movie is being filmed in Tampa Bay.

The Zola Twitter saga went viral. The ‘Zola’ movie is being filmed in Tampa Bay.

The story of prostitution, stripping and crime is becoming a movie called Zola. The production has been filming in the Tampa Bay area since Oct. 29, confirmed St.Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer.
Published: 11/15/18
Updated: 11/16/18
Police release name of man accused of leading officers on car chase that ended in crash

Police release name of man accused of leading officers on car chase that ended in crash

Reginald Mosley, 31, is charged with fleeing from police and attempted carjacking, among other crimes. A passenger in the car he was driving is still at large.
Published: 11/15/18
Their paintings are more than art. They’ve helped save the quaint cottages of Indian Rocks Beach.

Their paintings are more than art. They’ve helped save the quaint cottages of Indian Rocks Beach.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Mary-Rose Holmes and her husband Dwight had seasonal tourists in mind when they bought their place among the small cottages on the sand two decades ago.But they’ve never once offered it for rent. Instead, they moved...
Published: 11/15/18
All-girls school teacher accused of inappropriate relationship with 14-year-old

All-girls school teacher accused of inappropriate relationship with 14-year-old

Science teacher Jason Osborne is accused of engaging in an inaproproiate relationship with a 14-year-old student at Ferrell Girls Preparatory Academy in Tampa.
Published: 11/14/18
Deputies identify woman found dead in Egypt Lake home

Deputies identify woman found dead in Egypt Lake home

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Micheline G. Messersmith was the victim of a homicide reported Monday in Tampa's Lake Egypt Estates neighborhood.
Published: 11/14/18