A porky mascot: Local pig farmer supplies pigs for St. Paul Saints
LUND -- The St. Paul Saints don't hire just any mascot.
They have to be good around people, especially children, enjoy the game of baseball and not mind a silly costume or two.
They also have to be a pig.
"You kind of want an easy going one that picks up things quickly and trains well," said Dennis Hauth, the man who's trained the Saints' pigs for 15 years.
That's where Wisconsin pig farmer Gene Gullickson comes in. Gullickson has supplied Hauth and the Saints the last three mascots. He sells his young swine for only $25 and noted he has eight other pigs in county fairs across the Midwest. He currently has between 200 and 300 pigs at his farm just outside Lund on the Pierce/Pepin county line.
"If anybody wants pigs, I'll sell them to them," he said.
This year's mascot - sold while weighing meager 10 pounds - was just named "Garrison Squeallor" on Wednesday at the World's Largest Game of Catch in St. Paul, and he will make his first appearance at the Saints' home opener Monday against the Sioux City Explorers.
The Saints open the season tonight at the St. Joseph's Blacksnakes.
Garrison Squeallor joins a list of famous Saints mascot names, which includes The Notorious P.I.G.-Piggy Smalls, Hammy Davis Jr. and Kevin Bacon. Gullickson's pigs have been named Ham Solo and Bud Squealig the past two seasons.
"We've got a pretty good reputation for our feeder pigs," the 73-year-old said.
Gullickson has actually never been to a Saints game, but he's seen his pigs in action from time to time. He's been slowed by a heart attack he suffered last August and double bypass surgery last October, and he has hip replacement surgery on the schedule May 25, but he plans to continue to raise pigs.
"We've seen them off and on once and a while on TV," said Gullickson, who will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with wife LaVonne in August. "We've had people that have been there and told us what they do. I guess they put on quite a show."
Putting on a show at Midway Stadium is what the Saints are all about and, ironically, this year is the Year of the Pig, in accordance to the Chinese calendar. The Saints opened the one-of-a-kind promotional schedule May 6, when Dave Rasmussen - a 7-foot-3 Wisconsin native - became the tallest professional baseball player of all-time.
For Garrison Squeallor, his biggest role will be to don a costume and take baseballs out to the umpires during the game. He also will attend an occasional party for photo opportunities.
"The training is going well," said Hauth, who trains pigs in Oak Grove, Wis. "So far he's learned how to drink out of a bottle by himself and the next couple of days we'll leash train him."
And when he finally gets into full mascot mode, Garrison Squeallor will be the most famous four-legged mascot in Minnesota.
For Hauth, it's another opportunity to promote a good time at an outdoor baseball game - and grab some inside perks.
"Well, I get to go to all the games, meet all the famous people and that's about it," he said. "Have a good time all summer."