When you go to Sun Life Stadium to watch University of Miami football this fall, you’re bound to see a big, loveable bird- Sebastian the Ibis- leading the crowd in Hurricane cheers.
If you catch a University of Miami baseball next spring, however, you’ll soon realize Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field is a no-fly zone for Sebastian.
Instead, a curious-looking creature named the Miami Maniac rules the turf.
UM is one of the few schools in the country that has two high-profile team mascots. The older and more prominent of the two is Sebastian the Ibis, who regularly appears at athletic events except baseball, as well as many student activities on campus.
Sebastian landed on campus in 1957 as an entry in a homecoming competition. He quickly caught on as the team mascot for about 25 years.
That’s when legendary UM baseball coach Ron Fraser decided his championship-caliber teams needed their own mascot.
As a result, the Miami Maniac was born.
What really made the Maniac so popular was the man inside the costume.
John Routh, a University of South Carolina graduate, was hired in 1982 after being recognized for his unique talent of amping up the fans. During his time as a Gamecock cheerleader, Routh was selected two years in a row as the College World Series official mascot.
Routh was delighted to play the Maniac. Part of the reason was the costume.
“The old Sebastian costume didn’t let you do much,” he recalled. “The head was papier-mâché at one point and weighed a ton, so it was hard to move around in.”
Canes baseball fans quickly fell in love with his new look and on-the-field antics. Routh went on to perform as the Miami Maniac from 1983-1993; he also played Sebastian the Ibis from 1984-1992.
The Maniac has become a mainstay around the ballpark, and not just with the fans.
“The Maniac brings a lot to games,” freshman left-hander Ethan Borstein said. “I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that home games just wouldn’t be the same without him.”
Now, both mascots are so well established at UM that it’s hard to have a favorite.
Students love the popular C-A-N-E-S chant that Sebastian leads by forming the letters with his body. The Maniac is just as quirky, racing through the stands and hugging and kissing many a baseball fan.
“They both are great mascots- good with kids and adults alike,” said Connie Nickel, assistant athletic director for events. “They both carry the spirit of the U exceptionally well.”
Kelsey Pinault may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.