It’s hard to get inside the head of Wally the Green Monster, but in an exclusive Globe interview, the friendly and furry Red Sox mascot talked about a range of subjects, including Major League Baseball’s decision to restrict mascots for the 2020 season, the summer heat, his parents, Yankee fans, and what he’s done during the pandemic.
Chris Bergstrom, the Red Sox’ director of fan and youth engagement, spent 16 years as the main performer in the Wally costume and remains Wally’s “spokesperson.” Bergstrom handled 90 percent of Wally’s appearances and all the games from 2001-17.
Q. When you debuted in 1997, kids loved you. But there was some pushback from the older fans. How did you win them over?
A. I won the fans over by winning their grandkids over and their children over. That’s how you win the hearts of the adults. From there, you just become a part of Red Sox history.
Q. Since you’ve lived in the Wall since ’47, why didn’t you put a bathroom in it?
A. Manny has used it.
Q. So, it’s a secret?
A. Yeah, call and ask him. He’ll give you the keys.
Q. What has surprised you the most over the years?
A. Probably filming the “This is ‘SportsCenter’ ” commercial with [David] Ortiz and [Jorge] Posada. Even though it was for the commercial, seeing David in a Yankees cap is something that still gives me nightmares.
Q. When mascots get together, what do they talk about?
A. How you have to pace yourself, how much water you drink.
Q. Did you ever nearly pass out in the heat?
A. Every day. You don’t know what humid summers are until you come to Boston and hang out when it’s 95 degrees and humid.
Q. What was the most weight loss you had in a game?
A. Probably 8-10 pounds of water weight. You know, as soon as I had my postgame meal, I would put it all back on. So it doesn’t really count.
Q. MLB initially banned mascots for the 2020 season, but then reversed the policy. Mascots are allowed in the ballpark, just not on the field. What happened to change their mind?
A. I think they realized how much they would miss seeing me.
Q. What’s a Red Sox game without Wally?
A. There’s a whole age group now that doesn’t know what it’s like without Wally there, and I just don’t think it’s as much fun without Wally there.
Q. What about TV time? Are you going to going to sit behind home and be in every shot, like the guy from Giant Glass?
A. I don’t find the camera. The camera finds me.
Q. Do you believe in cardboard cutouts for fans?
A. Do you believe in cardboard Wallys?
Q. What did you do to celebrate the return of baseball?
A. Steamed up a couple of Fenway Franks!
Q. Being Wally is all about hugging. How are you going to survive without hugs?
A. I never thought about that. It’s a tough question. For now, it’s going to have to be virtual hugs. I have been working on my Zoom moves. Understanding how to live life in a virtual world.
Q. What will you miss most about going on the field?
A. It took a lot to run down to the field, so I’m going to enjoy doing fewer steps.
Q. What have you been doing during the pandemic?
A. Since we can’t do appearances in person right now, we’re doing virtual appearances. We could send a video message like “Happy Father’s Day” or we can jump on a Zoom call for a birthday party. The funds that we’re raising will go to the Red Sox Foundation. So other than that, I watch old Red Sox games.
Q. Have you put on a lot of weight?
A. You know what? I eat a lot in the press dining room. They have a nice ice cream machine up there. And you can have as much ice cream as you want. So I actually think that I have lost a little weight having to be good by not eating ice cream for 10 nights in a row.
Q. You have a running feud with Tampa Bay mascot Raymond. Why?
A. I was watching on NESN. He had a little Wally doll; he put it on the ground and drove over it with his ATV. When I saw that, I thought OK, game on. I think we’ve got more check marks in the World Series championship column. So I feel pretty good about that healthy competition between him and me.
Q. What about danger? There was once a mascot in San Francisco named Crazy Crab that got pelted with so many batteries and beers he had to be reinforced with a fiberglass shell for protection. Anything like that ever happen to you?
A. No, thank God. Crab retired. I was friends with him. He’s in better shape now. He’s in a retirement home.
Q. Did you ever get punched for pulling a Yankee cap off a fan?
A. I don’t think they’re punches. I think they’re love taps. I think all the Yankee fans love me. What’s not to love, right?
Q. They don’t call you names or anything like that at Yankee Stadium?
A. No, no, no. I mean, it all depends. When I was at the All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium, the mascots get introduced before the Home Run Derby. They did it alphabetically. So it’s like, “The Baltimore Orioles …” No reaction. And then they don’t even get through the word “Boston” and it’s just like the loudest boos you’ve ever heard in your life.
When you can stand in old Yankee Stadium and everybody there is interested enough to stop eating their hot dog to boo you, that’s when I said to myself, “Wow, you know, I think I’ve made it.”
Q. Last year there was a TV broadcast where they had A-Rod up on the Green Monster with Matt Vasgersian, who said, “Wally smells a little gamey,” and that’s a quote. Do you smell a little gamey?
A. No, no, no. I bathe frequently. Plus, J-Lo was there and she wanted a photo with Wally.
Q. Why are you still single?
A. You know, if you work in baseball, it takes up a lot of time.
Q. Do you have a girlfriend?
A. No comment.
Q. What about the Cincinnati Reds mascot, Rosie Red? She’s cute. Interested?
A. She likes the Reds.
Q. So what? They’re in another league.
A. I don’t know if we like the Reds around here. I’ve got bad memories.
A. Yeah. We don’t forget around here.
Q. She does yoga in the outfield to stay healthy. What do you do to stay in shape?
A. I watch people do yoga at Fenway sometimes. I get my exercise by watching.
Q. Did you know your parents?
A. Yeah, Walter and Wanda. They live in JetBlue Park in Florida.
They sent me up here because they were huge Red Sox fans. They were like, “Hey, do you want to go live in Fenway?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course I do.”
I like Florida spring training, but it gets pretty hot there in the summer, hotter than here. That’s how I ended up here in Boston.
Q. Are you related to the Hulk or the Jolly Green Giant?
A. Hulk and I are distant cousins. The Jolly Green Giant, I don’t know much about him.
Q. What was the greatest Red Sox moment for you?
A. 2004, obviously, to break the curse. But to be able to be with the fans at home in 2013 was definitely a highlight.
Q. You accompanied Smokey Robinson singing “Sweet Caroline” for Neil Diamond in front of President Obama in 2011. What was that like?
A. That was at the Kennedy Center Honors. Yeah. That was a lot of fun. I always lip-synch. I let the better voice take over.
Q. Why didn’t you race in London last year against Freddie Mercury, the Loch Ness Monster, Winston Churchill, and Henry VIII?
A. Because I didn’t want to show anybody up overseas, and it was really hot there, so it was not a good idea.
Q. The Yankees had a mascot named Dandy. It was a pinstriped bird in 1980, but it didn’t last long. Did you ever meet him?
A. No. Not interested, either.
Q. You know, monsters are supposed to be scary. You’re not. Why not?
A. You know what? I never even thought about it that way. I don’t think kids like scary monsters, so I guess I have to be friendly.
Q. What’s the best part about being Wally?
A. You meet so many kids, going through chemo at the Jimmy Fund, Mass. General, or Children’s Hospital. Just being able to put a smile on a kid’s face that’s really having a tough day — even if it’s for just a minute or two — is probably the best feeling that you can have.
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.