Earlier this year, Robbie Balderas’ mother had a suggestion many parents have for their high-school-aged children.
Perhaps it was time for Balderas to look for a new job.
What was unique, though, was who Balderas’ mother suggested he should look into getting a job with: the Everett AquaSox minor-league baseball team.
“I was like, ‘That’d be cool,’” said Balderas, an Arlington High School junior and the No. 1 singles player for this fall’s Eagles boys tennis team.
So, Balderas and his mom visited the team’s headquarters in Everett. There, he received a list of potential duties he could serve for the organization. The roles included kitchen work, cleanup crew, the Frog Shop team store and other promotional duties at games. But one job stood out to Balderas: AquaSox mascot Webbly.
“It sounded like a lot of fun,” Balderas said, “and it definitely is.”
Balderas was the man behind the mask at AquaSox games this past season, and not the one calling balls and strikes. He was the one in a frog suit dancing on top of dugouts, pumping up the crowd and getting into any shenanigans he could to bring smiles to the faces of baseball fans at Funko Field.
“It’s funny seeing how much you can do without saying a word,” Balderas said of his foray into being a mascot. “That was my favorite part, seeing what I could do and get across without saying a single word.”
Balderas served as Webbly for most of Everett’s home games this season, often played in six-game series with the occasional set of back-to-back homestands that would feature 12 games in Everett over 14 days. His duties also required attending community events like the Everett Fourth of July parade. He said he had backups in place in case he needed a day off.
Whether inside or outside the stadium in the suit, Balderas had a blast bringing Webbly to life.
“Webbly is definitely my favorite job by far,” said Balderas, who had previously held restaurant positions.
Being Webbly was just part of a busy schedule for Balderas. He also took over a lawn-mowing business from a friend this year and is a Running Start student at Everett Community College.
When school started this fall, there was a period where the junior would have school, lawn mowing, tennis and Webbly all on the same day.
“After a while, I just had a schedule,” Balderas said. “Get up at 6:30 (a.m.), go to school, go straight from school to yard work, then tennis practice, then Webbly, then go home and find time to do homework.”
“It’s kind of like Batman, I guess,” Balderas added with a laugh. “I put on the mask at night.”
Balderas came out for the Arlington boys tennis for the first time as a sophomore last season. He had previous experience playing racquet sports like pickleball and ping pong but was still rather green when it came to tennis.
Arlington coach Ben Mendro started Balderas on the junior-varsity team, but he quickly worked his way up the lineup and to varsity for a 2022 squad that was one of the stronger teams the program has fielded in recent years.
“He’s been a great revelation,” Mendro said. “Last year, he really came out and helped the team.”
With a younger team led by many juniors this fall, Balderas has taken over at the top of the Eagles’ lineup.
Mendro said the drive shown by the tireless Balderas and the qualities that made him a natural fit for Webbly translated well to the inherent leadership role that comes with being a team’s No. 1 singles player.
“He doesn’t necessarily look to take a leadership role, but it just happens kind of naturally because he’s outgoing and charismatic,” Mendro said. “He’s funny. The kids like him.”
As if Balderas wasn’t already busy enough, he’s expressed interest in taking tennis lessons after this season.
“I said, ‘That’s great, but I don’t know when you’re going to have time,’” Mendro laughed.
Balderas said he would like to study to be a filmmaker after high school but isn’t ready to hang up the suit when it comes to being a mascot. His next goal on that front is a lofty one: the Mariner Moose.
“One thing to learn about life is life doesn’t really give you lemons. You have to grow them,” Balderas said. “So, if you want to do something … you’ve got to work for it. I’ve got to be the best mascot I can to be the Mariner Moose.”