Paws is the lovable canine mascot for the Valley Blue Sox, a New England Collegiate Baseball League team based in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Always a fan favorite, he never shies away from a photo opportunity or chance to dance. But fans may not realize that the person bringing Paws to life at many home games is Irvin, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy.
When Irvin was diagnosed at age 3, his family brought him from Puerto Rico to the United States in search of the best care for his condition. He came to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield, located in Massachusetts.“When he began treatment as a patient in the neuromuscular clinic, Irvin had limited movement on the right side of his body,” said Irvin’s mom, Isabel. “Bracing, physical therapy and participation in the hospital’s BFit power-based exercise and cycling programs improved his mobility and gave him the confidence and endurance he needed to pursue mascot acting, which is very physically demanding.”
Irvin admits that the job of mascot isn’t easy. “It can be hard to wear the costume for long periods of time while dancing and performing,” he said. “But the best part is having the opportunity to interact with people of all ages and entertain them, and making the audience a part of my mascot world.”
Chris Weyant, general manager of Valley Blue Sox, explained that Irvin is a valuable part of the team. “Irvin is the definition of a team player, always willing to help at the ballpark at every turn,” he said. “The job of being a professional mascot is not an easy one, but he is always able to leave Blue Sox fans with a memorable experience when they meet Paws.”