By Maxwell Rotbart
When Colorado Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy stepped out of the home team dugout and onto the field on April 24th, he was hit by a tooth.
No, not a small piece of enamel from a fan or a teammate's mouth. This incisor was over six feet tall, cushioned, and sentient. In fact, it did its best to avoid the stunned Murphy, who escaped injury - only his pride was bruised.
Welcome to the Comfort Dental Tooth Trot, a staple of Coors Field since 2012, and one of many similar character “races” throughout Major League Baseball parks. These between-inning mascot competitions allow fans – especially kids – to root for their favorite racers.
At Coors Field in downtown Denver, before the start of the sixth inning, Bristles (a smiling toothbrush), Fresh (a sinister-looking tube of toothpaste), and Toothy (a tooth that wears an expression evoking Steve Urkel’s “Did I do that?” catchphrase) race along the dirt track between the dugouts.
For fans who aren’t on their way to the restroom or concession stands, the Tooth Trot is a means of promoting sponsor Comfort Dental, which is headquartered in nearby Lakewood, Colorado, and has independently owned franchises in 11 states. On its website, Comfort Dental, the “Official Dental Sponsor” of the Colorado Rockies, advertises a variety of general and pediatric dental services.
But the fit between baseball and dentistry – unlike, say, oral health and hockey – isn’t obvious, and lately, the Comfort Dental Tooth Trot has drawn some high-profile criticism in Mile High City media circles and on the Twitterverse.
The main gripe that outspoken baseball fans have against the Tooth Trot, however, is not the danger it poses to unsuspecting players such as Daniel Murphy (a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks faced a similar collision with a trotting Comfort Dental character in 2016), but its irrelevance to the people of Colorado.
As Denver Post sports writer Kyle Newman recently opined in a column, other baseball teams have inter-inning races that relate to the culture of the city where they play: the Milwaukee Brewers have a sausage race, and the Washington Nationals race the Mt. Rushmore presidents.
There is no natural connection, however, between Denver and dentists, other than the fact that both have two syllables and start with the letter “D.” In fact, and quite ironically, Milwaukee would be a better city to have a dental race; according to Wallet Hub, Wisconsinites have the best dental habits, on average, in the United States. If Arkansas had a major league baseball team, it could also be a contender as representing the state that is most in need of fostering dental habits. Colorado falls in the middle at rank 31.
Newman, writing in the Denver Post, suggests dropping the Tooth Trot in favor of the more locally inspired “Beer Bolt,” “Mountain Run,” or “Dinosaur Dash” - something that would excite fans “over the age of three” - and could still be sponsored by Comfort Dental.
The fact that Comfort Dental has been a sponsor for seven years, in and of itself, suggests the franchisor is getting a good return on its marketing dollars, if only for the premium season tickets and bragging rights that likely come as part of the sponsorship package. The question is, does the positive good offset the growing criticism?
Coors Field attracted more than three million visitors in 2018, one of the highest attendance records in baseball, and more than Houston, which won the World Series the previous year, or Boston, which would win that fall.
With each home game averaging 37,233 fans, Comfort Dental’s exposure is expansive; yet it seems it only gets noticed when the Tooth Trot goes awry.
Last month, when Rockies starting pitcher German Márquez was matched against the Philadelphia Phillies, the right-hander pitched through the pain of an infected tooth. “I lost my focus a little bit because of the pain,” Márquez told FanSided.com.
Nonetheless, without any help from Bristles, Fresh, or Toothy, Márquez completed five innings, allowing only ten hits in the Rockies 4-3 victory.
The next day, Márquez had the tooth extracted.
FanSided had no word on whether or not a Comfort Dental doctor removed the troublesome incisor.
Author: Contributing writer Maxwell Rotbart specializes in covering business, education, and history-related topics. He is the author of The State of Israel: Prime Ministers, available from Amazon.com.
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