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Inside the 'Roo Suit: Stephanie O'Neil

It’s a Friday night at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields. That means it’s another night of baseball being played on the fields, $1 hot dogs and popcorn flying out of the concession stand, and joy spreading joy throughout the entire complex. 


But this night—June 14, 2024—was extra special. It was a night of celebration for everyone’s favorite mascot, Joey the Can-Do Kangaroo!

A birthday cake given out to players and fans during Joey's 2nd birthday celebration.

The 6-foot baby 'roo was officially turning two-years-old. The celebrations started before the games, as Joey took his turn running around the bases. As Joey was rounding third and heading for home, chants of “Joey! Joey! Joey!” echoed throughout the stands from players and fans alike. 


Fans know Joey; but what those people may not know is the smiling face and caring heart underneath the mascot suit. 


Mascot performer Stephanie O'Neil (center) with "Joey's Bouncers."


That person would be Stephanie O’Neil, and she’s been performing as Joey for the character's entire life, along with a team of other dedicated performers who bring Joey to life. 


“I got involved about two and a half years ago,” O’Neil said. “I saw a post on Facebook for the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League needing some people with enthusiasm looking to be Joey and wanted to try it out.”


For O’Neil, her routine remains the same every game-day.

 

“I arrive here at the fields and I take a deep breath in. I’m ready and I see all the smiling faces,” O’Neil said. “Then I say hi to everyone in the concession stands and they’re like “Hey Joey!” or “Hey Steph!”, then I grab my ice vest, go back and start suiting up.”


That ice vest plays a big role for Stephanie, as temperatures rise in the summer heat. It can get hot and uncomfortable in the mascot outfit. Sometimes, that means taking a few breaks throughout the night to get some much needed air conditioning. 


Stephanie O'Neil performing as Joey accompanied by her fiance, Ryan Mueller. Ryan serves as Joey's handler at many events, helping Joey suit up and navigate the fields. The couple will wed this September.


The ice vest isn’t the only thing that people may not know about performing as Joey, or mascoting in general. 


“Not a lot of females do mascoting,” O’Neil said. “And when I walk out and some people see me all sweaty and with a headband on there like “oh, it was a girl in the suit, I wouldn’t have ever guessed.” 


While O’Neil isn’t personally upset by the assumption, she adds that it does affect the way that she acts while in the suit. O’Neil mentioned that performing as Joey means that she has to act more masculine, which can impact the way she walks and interacts with everyone.


But at the end of the day, O’Neil says that it doesn’t matter much. 


“Just having that enthusiasm, nobody will know whether or not,” O’Neil said.

 

Stephanie (aka Joey) posing for a picture during the games on June 14th.

Performing as Joey has been a rewarding, fulfilling, and uplifting experience for O’Neil. Throughout the night, O’Neil (aka Joey) was seen high-fiving, hugging, dancing, and taking pictures with players, their families, and fans throughout the facility. 


While the whole experience is rewarding for O’Neil, there’s one moment that sticks out. 


“At the travel game last year when we went to Pigeon Forge, there was one young adult who never left my side the entire time I was there, even though he wasn’t from our team, I believe he was on the Sioux Falls or Mercer County New Jersey team. The whole time he was holding my hand. We were dancing to different songs, we we’re giving hugs, he just never wanted to leave my side,” O’Neil said. 


Joey holding hands with an athlete from the Miracle League of Sioux City, IA at the 2023 Miracle Series in Pigeon Forge. Joey performer Stephanie O'Neil counts this as one of her most memorable moments as a member of Team Joey.


“Just knowing that there was that one kid that has never met me before, never met the mascot and that he could get that love and support—it was life-changing.”


As for fans, O’Neil wanted to let people know that the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields can leave a lasting impact on everyone. 



“My first game before I started doing Joey, I cried every single time somebody would hit home plate,” O’Neil said. “Come out and see a game. It’ll be life-changing and it’s a great experience. You will leave with tears.”


And if you're lucky, you'll leave with a few high-fives and hugs from Joey as well.




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