The minute senior exercise science major Mitch Prather got to Ball State, he wanted to be a mascot.
He auditioned to be Charlie Cardinal his freshman year with only a matter of hours’ notice before the tryout.
After being selected, he has spent the past four years being Charlie at around five to 10 sporting and community events per month. His first event was in the community at the Mattress Firm by the Muncie Mall.
“It was some children’s event but the children inside were scared of me, so they made me go stand on the corner and just twirl a sign and try to get people to come in,” Prather said.
As Prather and others like to say, there’s only one Charlie Cardinal, but several people play Charlie. Prather couldn’t tell anyone besides his family, girlfriend and freshman year roommate and teammate Tanner Barton about his persona.
“It was hard sometimes to keep that a secret, especially when people I know are talking about Charlie ... but it’s kinda fun to have that identity too, so that helps me keep it secret," Prather said. "It’s kind of like having an alter ego.”
Despite being involved in activities such as Greek Life, exercise science club and the Ball State swim team, along with being named 2016 Homecoming king, Prather made time to be part of “athletic special promotions.”
“It’s a break for me to be able to [be Charlie] so it makes it fun … I just find time to put in it," Prather said. "It’s like anybody else would just go to the game to sit there, so I just schedule that into my time.”
Prather said it's hard to to explain to people what his job in athletics is without giving away the secret. That is how he came up with athletic special promotions. He said he had to tell his freshman year roommate Barton about his position. Barton said if anyone could handle all of the responsibilities, it would be Prather.
"He is a master at balancing things and commitments," Barton said.
Prather has a passion and love for Ball State and enjoyed being Charlie at basketball and volleyball games the most. Before appearing as Charlie, Prather has to make sure he is drinking a lot of water and is rested.
“Once I get to the game, I’m psyched up … [my favorite part] is interacting with the fans and people, just being able to give people high fives and cheer on the team," he said.
Prather’s last event as Charlie Cardinal was the men’s volleyball game April 6. The day of the game, Prather revealed his identity on Facebook.
“I was kinda tearing up in the mask a little bit when the final point happened,” Prather said. “Nobody believed me [when I told them] because I do so many other things as well. It was kind of always the excuse because I’d have people ask me before and I’d say ‘you really think I have time to do that?’ But then I did.”
Patrick Murphy contributed to this story.