OGDEN -- Robbie Parker was no stranger to hard work in the summer of 1997. He'd practically grown up working in various family businesses and didn't mind getting his hands dirty.
But putting on a big, sweaty dinosaur head to entertain thousands of people at a minor league baseball game?
Sure, why not.
"It was a blast," said Parker, who went from being an Ogden Raptors' usher to the team's mascot, Oggie, midway through the '97 Pioneer League season.
He soon fell in love with the job and continued doing it through the 2000 season.
"Even now, whenever I apply to something, if there's ever a way to put that I used to be a mascot or that I worked for a professional baseball team, that always strikes up a conversation," Parker said. "Any other time I would apply for a job, especially in town, I would always put the Ogden Raptors as a reference. They would be like, 'What did you do for the Ogden Raptors?' I'd say, 'I was Oggie.' "
Parker said the people he'd meet would always tell him how much their children loved Oggie, the big green, fun-loving mascot. After that, folks always seemed to remember him.
"Everyone would always remember who you were because you were the mascot," he said.
Seventeen years later, Parker is returning to Lindquist Field for a much different reason.
The Ogden native and his family will throw out the first pitch tonight at Lindquist Field for "Pink the Park Night," an event that will honor little Emilie Parker, a victim of the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
The Raptors will wear pink jerseys during the game, each with the name "Emilie" on the back. Afterward, the jerseys will be auctioned at $500 apiece. All proceeds will benefit the Emilie Parker Fund.
Team president Dave Baggott said the Raptors have long had a special relationship with their fans and former employees.
"We don't just have fans, we have family members," he said.
Over the years the Raptors have had hundreds of special events at Lindquist Field, some of them fun and some poignant. Few if any have ever been as important as tonight's festivities, Baggott said.
"We've got to look out for our own," he said.
Robbie Parker has been a part of the Ogden Raptors family since he was 16 years old. First as an usher and then as Oggie, he forged a bond with regulars as the ballpark.
In fact, the folks who sat in his section back in the summer of '97 indirectly helped him get a "promotion."
Midway through the season, the person who'd been playing Oggie was let go, and after a few nights without a mascot to entertain, Parker -- then a sophomore at Ben Lomond High School -- began hearing questions from concerned season ticket holders.
"I went up to talk to Dave and I was like, 'What should I tell these people?' " Parker explained. "He said, 'Why? Would you want to be Oggie?' I just kind of laughed it off. I was like, 'Sure, I'll do it.'"
Parker said, when he showed up for work the next day, Baggott approached him and said, "We're getting the suit dry cleaned. You start on Saturday."
And that's how it began.
Baggott doesn't remember all the details behind that story but doesn't refute them.
"That sounds like something I'd do," he said. "If anyone is willing to volunteer their services, who am I to say no?"
He may not remember the finer points of the summer of '97, but Baggott remembers well the moment last December when he heard about the shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary that took the lives of 26 people, including 6-year-old Emilie.
He said he was following the events on television when he heard there was a connection to Ogden. He didn't realize what it was until seeing a picture of Robbie Parker and Emilie at Lindquist Field.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, it's THAT Robbie Parker,'" Baggott said. "My heart just sank."
Soon after Baggott reached out to Robbie with the idea of honoring Emilie at a Raptors game.
Parker said he was touched by the offer.
"It really does (mean a lot)," he said. "You know, I was just a punk teenager running around when I worked there. I didn't know who was paying attention to me."
With a lifetime spent around the game, first as a player and later as a team executive, Baggott understands what a night at the ballpark can mean to people. He believes it can represent a temporary respite for those who are grieving, an opportunity to simply enjoy themselves in a friendly at a ballgame.
"If they can sit and crack open a bag of peanuts and have a soda for a few hours, it's worth every expense."