By Greg Salvatore
We approached Baxter's Den not knowing what to expect. Although we had lined up an exclusive interview with the D-backs' mascot, there was one problem -- Baxter doesn't talk.
So we brought a white board and markers with us, allowing Baxter to communicate.
It was first thing in the morning, so everybody was a bit surprised to see Baxter up and running around already. Since most D-backs games are at night, we all assumed he would be more of a night owl, or night cat, in his case.
"Oh, I'm around all the time," Baxter scribbled on the white board. "In the mornings, I go to schools and community events. Then I come back here and entertain fans during the game."
Baxter performs with D-backs organist Bobby Freeman at such events, and he figures that between D-backs games and other appearances, he participates in more than 300 events per year.
After a few minutes, Baxter dropped the ball of yarn he had started playing with, and took a few sips of water from a bowl on the table next to his chair. Then he began scribbling again.
"I've been the world's biggest D-backs fan my whole life," he wrote.
His family members have been prominent bobcats in Arizona for generations, Baxter told us. His mom and dad used to go to Spring Training games before the D-backs existed. He still has aunts and uncles prowling around the Four Peaks in Tonto National Forest, and he has one aunt who lives at the Phoenix Zoo.
Baxter was born in June of 2000, the third season of D-backs baseball. His parents were at the ballpark that day, so a D-backs game was literally the first thing he saw.
Right away, Baxter began lobbying the D-backs for a job. After convincing the team that there wasn't a fiercer fan around, they built Baxter's Den in center field so he could live at the park, and offered him a job as the team mascot. When he's not running around the stands at Chase Field, spends time at the den during games, to take photos and sign autographs for the D-backs' youngest fans.
That wasn't always the job he wanted, though.
"I always wanted to play in the Major Leagues," he wrote. "I wanted to be a D-backs player. I'm a pretty awesome pitcher, if I do say so myself.
"I thought I was going to make it to the big leagues, too, but it turns out Major League Baseball has this silly rule about how all of the players
need to be humans. Not cats allowed. Darn."
So Baxter hung up his cleats and put away his glove. Instead, he dedicated his life to making people laugh and creating the kind of mischief that makes coming to a baseball game so much fun.
These days, he does his pitching up at the Sandlot on the upper concourse.
"It's a pretty great job," Baxter wrote. "I get to come to work every day and just be a fan of the team that I support anyway. What could be better than that?"