As the fans trickled into Avista Stadium on Sunday night for the Indians game, a boisterous character’s voice boomed over the rest.
“Hello, young recycler!” Recycleman greeted a young baseball fan as he approached the mascot for an autograph and a photo. Fans young and old crowded around the beloved eco-friendly hero to receive a hug or a firm handshake from a red-gloved hand on the mascot’s final day at Avista Stadium.
Recycleman then threw the first pitch.
The Indians’ caped crusader, 36-year-old Brad Bishop, championed the team’s efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle for 12 seasons before hanging up his red cape this year to focus on his career.
“Humble,” Bishop said about his feelings from beneath the blue Recycleman mask . “It’s been a pretty big outpouring from the fans.”
The experience has helped change him for the better over the years, he said.
“It’s boosted my confidence and mental flexibility with certain situations. It’s kind of an exercise in empathy, trying to figure out who’s having a good time and who’s not,” he said. “That’s a skill that’s been developed, and I use it everywhere I go.”
When he wasn’t sprinting across the baseball field, dishing out high-fives or dancing on top of the dugout, Bishop was working as an applied behavioral analyst at Lilac City Behavioral Services. His work focuses on children and young adults, most of them with developmental delays. Bishop serves as the organization’s chief of staff.
Bishop originally tried his hand at becoming a professional mascot for a number of teams and companies starting in the late 2000s, even applying for a position with the Chicago Bulls. He ultimately landed on Recycleman in 2009, a character that he helped create in an attempt to bolster the Spokane Indians’ recycling efforts at Avista Stadium.
“I just knew immediately when we interviewed Brad and talked about the concept of the superhero, I said, ‘You’re really going to need to adopt a voice and come into character with it, is this something you can do?’ ” Spokane Indians Senior Vice President Otto Klein said. “He immediately replied in a superhero voice about recycling and I knew in that instance we had something special.”
The Spokane Indians credit the mascot with helping recycle more than 100,000 pounds of paper, plastic and aluminum products at the ballpark. Though that number may be more closer to 150,000 pounds by now, Spokane Indians spokesman Bud Bareither said.
After only making sporadic appearances throughout the 2021 season during the COVID-19 pandemic, Recycleman’s booming voice and theatrics were notably absent in the 2022 season.
Recycleman’s last full season was in 2019.
Sunday’s appearance gave fans a chance to see him off.
“We never got a chance to give him a proper farewell,” Bareither said. “We just wanted a chance to acknowledge all he had done for Spokane and the team. He really made recycling fun, especially for the kids, to plant the seed that it’s a fun thing to do.”
Recycleman added a bit of humor and wit to the Indians’ lineup of nonverbal mascots, Otto, Doris, Ribby and the newest addition, KC, based on the KC-135 Stratotankers at Fairchild Air Force Base.
“He’s just so iconic. He was more like a cheerleader for the team,” Bareither said. “He’s just a wonderful human being.”
Bishop’s long, curly red hair and beard made him stand out in the crowd.
He couldn’t just put on a pair of glasses and call himself Clark Kent, Bareither said.
“His in-character is so fun and energetic and his off-character is just the same way,” Klein said. “He’s as genuine as they come.”