Gaskins Joins Canaries As Media Director
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- It could be... It might be... It is... John Gaskins, the local sports talk radio host who the Sioux Falls Canaries have brought on board to be -- among many things -- their new entertainer "Harry Canary" for the summer.
Gaskins' character -- who he admits is a loose and absurd impersonation of baseball announcing legend Harry Caray -- can be found bouncing around the grandstand at select Canaries home games and on the team's social media video promotions.
The man himself, who produced and co-hosted "Sports Talk with Craig and John" on KWSN (Fox Sports 98.1 FM and 1230 AM) for seven of the past 12 years, is officially the team's new media director, a consulting position in which he helps build the brand of the minor league baseball team and enhance the Birdcage gameday experience through a variety of creative media, advertising, promotional, public relations and marketing strategies.
This will include the writing, producing, and hosting of amusing social media video segments -- which may also play on the video board during games -- highlighting the fun and timeless spirit of the club.
"John has been an incredible addition to our staff this summer," Canaries general manager Duell Higby said. "He brings a whole new set of eyes and a welcomed energy to our in-game production. We're looking to capitalize on being one of the only professional baseball teams in the entire country to be hosting games in front of fans for the near future, and John's knack for creating entertaining content will be an exciting part of that."
Harry Canary sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch of select games. His debut video, released a day before the July 3 season opener, generated a combined over 10,000 views on Twitter and Facebook. Follow-up acts have included Harry and Cagey -- the team's lovable yellow bird mascot -- playing with dogs to promote "Bark in the Park Night," and getting pushed into a pool along with pretend relatives of Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett -- also played by Gaskins -- to promote "I Love Summer Summer," a game in which all of those characters were drowned in a Dunk Tank by fans.
Another new staple at The Birdcage is adopting the Boston Red Sox tradition of a singalong to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," with Covid-current lyrics sang by the Grammy Award artist's (pretend) nephew Doug, also Gaskins.
A play-by-play sportscaster for over 15 years, Gaskins will also join the sfcanaries.com
radio broadcast crew for select games. A sportswriter and former TV sports anchor and reporter, the Omaha native and University of Nebraska alumnus relishes the opportunity to help tell the stories and showcase the personalities of the Birds, plus bring fresh concepts to how the games are enjoyed.
"We have a gem here in Sioux Falls with Canaries baseball and the Birdcage," Gaskins said. "It just needs some polish and shine so more people can see it, love it, and keep coming back for more, the way I have for the last 15 years coming out to the park as a fan.
"To be a member of the Canaries to spread the word about the Birds is an opportunity I am ecstatic to have. I've always had ideas about what could make the team and the games even more fun and help create memories for people and families, and now is a lightning in a bottle time to do it, considering how starved for baseball and live sports everyone is."
With Major League Baseball not allowing fans, and the canceling of the entire season of affiliate minor league ball, stands will be empty this summer in the Twin Cities, Omaha, Lincoln, Sioux City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Kansas City. Part of Gaskins' new role has been appearing on local radio shows in those out-of-town markets -- both as himself and Harry Canary -- to attract potential new Birdcage attendees.
"The Birdcage won't just be a mecca for Midwest baseball, but for summer fun in the region," Gaskins said. "I love the baseball games, but what brings me back to the park is the therapeutic way coming out to the Cage after a long day or week relaxes me and makes me feel better about life, no matter the score. Having become a family man the last few years has also made me appreciate how much it helps getting the kids out of the house and excited about seeing the players, Cagey and Peep, and whatever else the team does to make the event special.
"Minor league baseball should be a party where a baseball game happens to break out, and I hope to liven up the party. I won't just be a consultant, but hopefully a facilitator of fun, sometimes making a clown of myself. I've been doing that for years on the radio and can't wait to do it at the ballpark. Even if I look and sound absurd, I can't wait to help make the Canaries look better."