Meet the Next Houston Astros Mascot: UT’s Richard Tapia

Last Friday night, a fuzzy green alien named Orbit blazed into Houston’s Minute Maid Stadium atop an ATV. A cascade of fireworks shot from the vehicle as it zoomed toward a cordoned-off stage, while hundreds of fans cheered and snapped photos. Then Orbit bounced to the stage, took his place among the Astros baseball players, and raised his paws triumphantly to the sky. The crowd went wild.

Houston, Orbit has landed—and inside his green-and-orange suit is Richard Tapia, BS ’03.

In September, The Alcalde brought you the story of Tapia’s bid to be named the next Astros mascot. The two-month contest (which included rigorous tryouts, interviews, and fan voting) ended last week in his favor. Tapia wasn’t told why he won, but he thinks his extensive mascot experience—starting in high school, continuing with UT’s Hook ’Em, and going pro with the Round Rock Express’ Spike—probably helped.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 years now,” Tapia says. “I brought the judges a detailed business plan and told them what I brought to the table in terms of the creative and the business side of the job.”

Orbit the alien will replace the Astros’ previous mascot, Junction Jack, but he’s not completely new to Earth: An earlier incarnation of Orbit was the team’s mascot from 1990-99. Tapia says fans love the throwback mascot, which was announced Friday with a goofy video that showed Orbit “landing” at NASA headquarters near Houston.

“It’s funny, because there are adult fans who grew up with Orbit, and they’re thrilled to have him back,” he says. “Grown men and women act like kids around him.”

In addition to cavorting at baseball games, Tapia says he will make more than 400 appearances per year as Orbit. “We really want to get him out in front of more people,” he says. “It’s good for the community and for the brand.”

As for his first public appearance last week—when the Astros’ new logo and uniforms were also unveiled—Tapia says it was a joy.

“The only thing I can compare it to is my first game as Hook ’Em at UT,” he says. “I’m ready to get to work.”

 

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