Discombobulated, I move on to part three of the audition. Back inside the stadium hallway, more running awaits—this time a race from the first-base entrance back to the center-field gate. I cross the finish line after two run-ins with a wall and long after Abe and Tom.
The dance-off might be my best chance to shine. I studied Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” moves in preparation, but after running three races, some hip shaking and a jazz square are all I can manage.
An interview with an American Idol–style panel of Nationals staff rounds out the audition. They pepper me with questions as a video camera records my answers. “What would it mean to you to be a racing President?” “How often do you participate in dance-offs?” “How often do you win?” “What’s your favorite kind of doughnut?”
I leave the audition with bruises to my ego and my left ankle as well as a newfound admiration for Tom, George, Abe, and Teddy. Winners—there’ll be 15 to 20—will be told in about a week, after deliberations by Davis, the mascot coordinators, and other staff.
But I’ll never know who the chosen mascots are. A Disney-like contract ensures that the identities of Presidents stay behind the masks. And it’s safe to say you won’t see me racing along the warning track this season. I’ll leave that to the professionals.