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The best job in sports

Once Springstead got a taste of being a mascot " the handshakes from adults and kids alike, being involved in on-ice promotions such as T-shirt tosses and contests and just having good, clean fun " he didn't want to let it go. He went from playing Rowdy to playing Homer the Diamond Dog (back when the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs inhabited Heritage Park), Wolfgang (from the short-lived Albany Attack indoor lacrosse team), Kid Quest and SouthPaw.

"You become the character," said Springstead. "Once that suit goes on, you're not Michael Springstead. You're Rowdy or Kid Quest or Wolfie (Wolfgang's nickname)."

Those mascot suits aren't light, either. Depending on the material being used, becoming one of those characters means wearing more than 10 pounds of clothing, including the head. But Spring-stead is used to it by now.

"It's almost become like a second skin," he said. "Even with the floppy feet, I can still run down the stairs."

Running down the aisles at the Pepsi Arena is one thing. Skating on the ice as Rowdy " as Springstead does routinely during the AHL season " is another matter entirely. However, Springstead said he's mastered that, too.

"I swear to my dog that I can skate better as Rowdy than when I skate as myself. It's weird," he said.

Springstead's athletic ability inside one of those mascot outfits has something to do with his upbringing. As a teenager at Shaker High School, he ran on the boys cross country team coached by his father Ed.

"I loved it," said Springstead. "Some of the best memories were the car rides to and from school and the practices."

"He was a good runner in high school," Ed added.

Not that being a mascot isn't a sport in itself. Springstead approaches every game almost like the athletes he cheers for " he eats lightly before a game, he keeps plenty of water and Gatorade stashed in his locker room to replenish the fluids he sweats away and he even wears the same athletic underwear that the players wear.

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