You may think you have a great job, but Lansdale resident Tom Burgoyne probably has it better.
The 47-year-old has been the Phillie Phanatic full-time for the last 20 years. He took up the iconic green costume in 1994 after the original portrayer, David Raymond, retired. Speaking from his office in Citizens Bank Park, Burgoyne said that he initially auditioned for the job on a bit of a whim, answering an ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 1989.
“I just kind of assumed this job was a joke really,” Burgoyne said. “I was blown away, of course.”
Burgoyne said that his audition consisted of “being the Phanatic for five minutes” in front of a panel that included Raymond, the creator of the costume, and members of the Phillies entertainment division.
This was no challenge for Burgoyne, who was a young fan when the Phanatic was first introduced in 1978.
“I grew up watching the Phanatic so I had a really good sense of him when I started working here,” Burgoyne said.
He was hired as one of Raymond’s backups, and also worked in the marketing department. He also served as DJ in the PhanaVision control room for several years. Following the Phillies’ trip to the World Series in 1993, he was hired as the full-time Phanatic.
Burgoyne admits that he was witness to several seasons of less-than-stellar baseball, but he said the recent string of strong Phillies seasons (specifically 2008) made up for it.
“The highs are that much higher when you’ve been in the valley,” he said.
Burgoyne lives with his wife and three sons in Lansdale, and he said they have become acclimated to his unique profession. When his boys were younger, he said that he would tell them not to ruin the mystery of the Phanatic for other children. Indeed, his business card reads “The Phanatic’s Best Friend.”
He estimated that he has been the Phanatic about 6,000 times, logging roughly 10,000 hours in the suit. He said fans would probably be most surprised at “how much happens behind the scenes” before games.
The Phanatic has a handler, or as Burgoyne puts it, a “bodyguard,” and sticks to a fairly tight schedule during the average Phillies game. Before each game, Burgoyne is given a printed itinerary of areas of the stadium where various groups have requested a visit from the Phanatic, and he said he tries to make rounds.
Burgoyne said he begins to sweat within minutes of donning the 35-pound Phanatic suit, which he added is cleaned only about once a month and re-feathered when necessary. He makes many of the alterations himself.
The Phillies’ marketing team gives Burgoyne freedom more or less to do as he pleases once he’s in the suit. He described the Phanatic’s personality as a mixture of “Daffy Duck, Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges.”
“He’s kind of like an 8- or 9-year-old kid,” Burgoyne said. “He can’t hide his emotions.”
He fondly recalled a few of his favorite moments as the Phanatic, which include a performance for the Supreme Court justices (Samuel Alito is a big Phillies fan) and when he used the costume to crash a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Spectrum.
“He wasn’t too happy,” Burgoyne said, noting that he was soon thereafter ejected from the pit area by bouncers.
Burgoyne has missed only about 14 games in his two decades of service to the Phillies organization, and he has no plans of quitting any time soon.
“There’s going to come a day when I’m not going to be able to do this any more,” Burgoyne said. “If I’m still physically able to do it, though, why wouldn’t I?”