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Chatting With The Top Dog 

Sanaa Julien, Director Of Marketing For The Cleveland Indians

Scene: How long has the Tribe been racing processed meats?

SJ: This will be the third year. Two years ago we did a handful of games, not the whole season. Last season was the first we did it for every game.

What was the impetus for starting the races?

We'd been doing the animated hot-dog derby but looking to do something more participatory for the fans. We also looked at other teams, and it just clicked.

So there was never any thought to having a pierogi race?

No, they can do that in Pittsburgh.

We all know that Ketchup cheats. How did that come about?

It became a fan element. Ketchup was running the race, and the guy in the suit had more experience than some of the other racers and ran more consistently, so he just started to take off by himself. There was no plan, no program. Then fans started screaming, "Ketchup cheats!" and we played it up a bit. There's lots of antics.

Why is the mustard hot-dog yellow mustard and not Stadium Mustard?

There was no intention of doing it one way or the other. Yes, Stadium Mustard's a Cleveland thing, but we tried to make the costumes as generic as possible. We also have different corporate partners, and to brand specifically for that would be a problem.

What kind of training is involved?

We've actually trained them for only entertainment in the past. This year, we hired a trainer for them - Joel Woods from Five Seasons - and he's going to be working with them to ensure that all the hot dogs have the same capabilities. We have stringent requirements this year. They have to be able to run the race in under 90 seconds, since the bottom of the fifth inning is the only time we're allowed on the field, and we have to get off in a certain amount of time.

Will they be auditioning with the suits on?

They'll go through a full audition - training and entertainment. They have to be able to personify the characters.

What are those characteristics?

Onion is the girl. She's a girly girl, yet she can handle it. She wears a skirt when she races and carries her purse. Mustard is playful - the little boy, jokester next door. Ketchup is the troublemaker.

How much do the suits weigh?

I don't know.

You've never tried to run around in them?

No, but many of our staff has. Most everybody's put the suits on one time or another.

How do you pick who wins?

Our goal is to make it as random as possible. But they're out there really racing. They're trying to win. There's definitely internal competition. We don't plan it.

So there's no inside information if I'm betting on these races?

No. Oftentimes I'm surprised at the outcomes. Sometimes we plan things and have theatrics, like when Sgt. Slaughter was in town, but that's not on an ongoing basis.

So I can't come tackle Mustard sometime next year?

Not during a game, for insurance liability purposes.

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