How the Portland Pickles are winning baseball social media

BRAZIL - 2021/06/08: In this photo illustration a Twitter logo is seen on a computer screen through a magnifying glass. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BRAZIL - 2021/06/08: In this photo illustration a Twitter logo is seen on a computer screen through a magnifying glass. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dillon T. Pickle, the mascot of the Portland Pickles, has been in the news plenty since the start of the calendar year … and that’s exactly what the Pickles want.

On this day though, inside The Pickle Jar, the team’s headquarters and merchandise shop in downtown Portland, team general manager Ross Campbell is on a quest to not only find his mascot, but also have people believe that he is really, sincerely trying to find his mascot.

You see, the Pickles have been posting on social media for Delta Air Lines to help them find the team’s missing mascot, who made it from the Dominican Republic (more on that in a moment) to JFK but not back to Portland. While the airline may not have been as quick to respond on Twitter, plenty of Pickles followers (the account has more than 28,000 now) have been doing everything from offering help to trying to figure out what kind of fun activity this is leading to in the near future.

Here’s a spoiler alert: Dillon really didn’t make the trip back to Portland and the Pickles have spent a considerable amount of time trying to track him down.

“It’s a fine line between keeping a very captive audience and doing things that are weird and different and fun for our audience, then when you actually need your audience’s help to tell them that something is serious, you want to avoid being that boy who cries wolf sometimes,” Campbell said. “It’s been challenging for us the last few days.”

That challenge has been the latest social media phenomenon for the Portland Pickles

So, back to the story of Dillon’s disappearance. On the way back from the Dominican Republic and some fun around the Caribbean Series and the induction of David Ortiz (a native of the DR) into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dillon simply disappeared. After being distracted by a dancing ear of corn at the Caribbean Series and pleading for an audience with Big Papi himself, Dillon wasn’t in baggage claim when Campbell and his crew arrived back in Portland

OK, you read that last sentence and couldn’t get past “dancing ear of corn,” right? We get it. Here’s the visual that can help.

That mention of Stephen Colbert in the video? Yes, the late night talk show host has discussed the Pickles, as has People Magazine, the Daily Mail out of the United Kingdom, Fox News, and many other media outlets around the world.

The reason? Well, let’s call it one of Dillon’s most memorable moments.

Campbell shakes his head about how that moment went viral on social media.

“We had the photo that someone had taken and we were like, ‘What’s the best way to sort of position something funny around this or a joke around this?’ What is better than a mascot takeover, I guess? And then it just exploded,” Campbell said. “We’re still getting notifications on that tweet from people that are checking it out. People loved it. I mean, the response was overwhelming.”

While Major League Baseball remains entrenched in a lockout, the Pickles are reminding baseball fans what baseball can mean to towns outside of the MLB universe. It takes creativity for minor league teams and unaffiliated franchises to stay front of mind in a time when baseball fans are backing away from the sport until some kind of movement on the lockout is reached.

Talk about the NFL playoffs all you want. The Pickles are somehow working themselves into a conversation this offseason and it usually centers around the question, “Did you see this?”

“We’re a small team (internally) so we all have a lot of things to do,” Campbell said. “It’s hard to get a lot of your work done when something like that is going on on social media, but it’s so much fun. Especially when you have new people or interns and you can show them that this kind of thing happening is doable, even with a team that’s our size. That’s what is really cool.”

Of course, there’s more to the Pickles than just the mascot making national news and the social media team engaging with brands ranging from Manscaped to Snickers over a well-cropped photo. There is actually baseball played by this team in Portland and beyond from late May to mid-August as part of the West Coast League, a summer wooden bat league consisting of a group of teams stretched across the Pacific Northwest.

Several current MLB players have spent time in the West Coast League before making it in the big leagues, including Seattle’s Mitch Haniger, Boston’s Nick Pivetta, Detroit’s Matthew Boyd, and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins.

“We’ve had people that fly in from around the country or do road trips and they have to check us out,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of minor league baseball fans and independently baseball fans.”

Independent baseball in Portland has been in the mind of baseball fans throughout the country ever since The Battered Bastards of Baseball was released in 2014 on Netflix, a documentary telling the story of the independent Portland Mavericks and how that team captured the city’s heart. Now, the Pickles seem to be grabbing the attention of the city, in similar and different ways.

“Some of the original Portland Mavericks that frequent our games say, ‘This is the closest we have seen since we did the whole thing,'” Campbell said. “It’s been really cool to get sort of their blessing on what we’re doing and how we’ve been growing.”

Campbell believes what the Pickles have done with social media is a taste of what’s to come with baseball teams promoting themselves and earning recognition.

“You’ll see more and more teams take more risks and do things that appeal to fans. You can start to see that with the team names and the rebranding of teams across the country,” Campbell said. “You have to have your own thing. If you have the same name as an NBA team or other teams across the country, you need to have a little bit of differentiation to stand out to your fans and become something that people can be behind.”

Like … the Pickles.

So what comes next for Dillon?

“Well, first, we have to find him and get him back,” Campbell laughed. “Dillon has a promotional schedule to release next week.

“It’s been a weird couple of days, but there seems to be some traction now.”

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And what lies ahead for the Pickles and the social media team?

“We want to solidify ourselves as something that you have to see when you’re in Portland,” Campbell said. “We’re here for everybody and we’re here to have fun.”