Ross Campbell learned his lesson, and then some. On a connecting flight from the Dominican Republic through New York, Campbell arrived in Portland, Oregon, with the startling realization that Dillon didn’t make it.
Campbell, the general manager of the Portland Pickles, had decided Dillon would ride in the cargo hold — because, well, Dillon is a seven-foot-tall pickle and the mascot of the wooden-bat summer baseball team. No matter how lifelike Dillon might seem, with his winning smile and a baseball hat fixed to his noggin, riding with other passengers would have attracted attention.
But Dillon was lost. And once Delta finally returned the vital cargo to Walker Stadium in Portland, he was promptly stolen from the front stoop before he was returned about 10 days later.
“He’s not allowed in the cargo hold anymore,” Campbell said.
So this time, when Campbell booked a flight for he and Dillon The Pickle to Baltimore, Dillon found his way into the main cabin.
“He’s all ready to go sitting in his normal seat,” Campbell said. “I mean, we don’t really have a choice.”
And when asked whether Dillon would be stowed in the overhead bin or worn by whomever was generally inside the mascot, Campbell was puzzled.
“What do you mean?” he said. “It’s a pickle. No one wears it.”
The cross-country journey for Dillon The Pickle has a purpose, though, with the aim to unite pickle people. It’s also a chance for Dillon to enjoy a better experience on the East Coast, avoiding the trauma of becoming lost baggage and instead partying with Orioles fans at Pickles Pub outside Camden Yards on Friday between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The next day, Dillon will grace The Big Dill Pickle Festival in Baltimore with his presence. Dillon wasn’t available for comment on this story, because he can’t speak. But Campbell assures that Dillon is stoked for the opportunity to “get him in situations around other pickle people.”
The connection between the Portland Pickles and the Orioles isn’t as random as it might seem. Alan Miller, the owner of the Pickles, became an Orioles fan as a 10-year-old in Los Angeles. He was tired of watching all the California baseball teams, so he turned on the television and saw Cal Ripken Jr. play.
He was hooked.
“I can’t believe I did this to myself,” Miller said.
But there was no turning back for him, so he stuck through the losing of 1988 and the postseason drought at the turn of the century and the return to more losing during a full-scale rebuild. He offered his son, then 10 years old, an out, giving him a free pass to become a Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Yankees fan.
“It’s gonna be easier,” Miller said. “And he said, ‘Nope, I want to be an O’s fan.’ So I feel so bad for him.”
The turnaround this season, though, has been welcome for father and son, who tune in to watch on TV or listen on the radio to every Orioles game, even during the Pickles’ season, which runs from June through August.
“I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to support the Orioles however we can, so as the Pickles and Dillon and a lot of our things have become more and more popular, I’ve really wanted to reach out and be supportive and do whatever we can,” Miller said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, we’re all-in on the O’s, and so we made Dillon The Pickle a big Orioles fan.”
They have a hometown favorite in catcher Adley Rutschman, too, who grew up in nearby Sherwood, Oregon, and starred for Oregon State. While he played summer ball for the Corvallis Knights, the Pickles’ rival, some of Rutschman’s family members attend Pickles games, and Rutschman held a youth clinic with the Pickles last year.
The legend of Dillon The Pickle has grown rapidly, given his voracious appetite to connect with his fans. On Twitter, he went viral for a fun-loving photo misinterpreted as displaying Dillon’s pickle to the world.
“Mascot takeover — always a bad idea on social media, is what we learned very quickly,” Campbell said. “Dillon gets us in more trouble than good sometimes, but ultimately he’s a great representation of just what our team is. We want to connect with as many people as we can, and we want to show people that Dillon is awesome, the city of Portland is awesome and it’s fun to have fun, and we don’t need to take ourselves so seriously every day.
“Dillon wants to connect with as many fans as he possibly can, and that was one of his campaigns,” Campbell continued. “He just decided to send a thumbs-up to his all of his fans, and of course got taken in a much different direction and interpreted in a much different way than originally intended. But Dillon’s a good one.”
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It’s those shenanigans that have helped Dillon become famous, with annual interest from The Big Dill Pickle Festival. Finally, they’ve made it work, with Dillon The Pickle schedule to serve as a guest judge with his own stand to give away Pickles gear.
And as an Orioles fan who has enjoyed Pickles Pub before, Miller felt it was necessary to combine The Big Dill Pickle Festival with a trip to the iconic Orioles bar. So Dillon will be there on Friday wearing an Orioles home run chain, having safely navigated a plane journey.
“He’ll be taking pictures with people and handing out some goodies, and trying to get a feel for Orioles fans,” Campbell said. “And I think Orioles fans will do a good job of converting his fandom to a Baltimore fan.”
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
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