Mohawks catch on with Rays fans

Mohawks catch on with Rays fans

ST. PETERSBURG -- It started in the Rays' clubhouse, and Saturday afternoon the Mohawk haircut trend had anything but died down.

Players like James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine and Rocco Baldelli emerged one by one from the bathroom with a fresh 'Hawk, while others waited patiently to join the growing list of victims for team hair stylist Wilbur Bonilla.

But the biggest shift in the 'Hawk trend has been the contagious enthusiasm for the new 'do with fans at Tropicana Field and around the St. Petersburg area.

Just ask Fernando Perez, who walked into his local AT&T store Friday to be greeted by a store rep with a Mohawk.

"He said, 'I got this because of you,'" Perez said, smiling.

And when executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman came upon a 'Hawked cashier at 2:30 a.m. ET on Saturday and asked the motive, the answer was the same.

"He told Andrew, 'Have you been watching the Rays?'" manager Joe Maddon said, running his hand over his own 'Joe-Hawk,' which he claimed needed a little hair gel.

Hair gel is the popular accomplice to the Rays' new look, although some like J.P. Howell took their 'Hawk to a new level. The back of Howell's head was shaped like an arrow, which he believes to be a good-luck charm.

"It's just a crazy idea and it's a blast," Trever Miller said. " What other job can you be a 35-year-old man, get a Mohawk and not get fired?"

You certainly can't work at the local grocery store, as Shields ran into a Publix worker on Saturday afternoon who said he wanted to get the 'Hawk but his boss wouldn't let him.

"He said, 'Maybe I'll be at the game today with one [anyway],'" Shields said.

If he was, he wasn't alone, as Tropicana Field has become an increasingly popular place for fans to rock the 'Hawk, regardless of a little adversity.

Take fan Mark Svenningsen, who didn't let his naturally bald head stand in the way of his Rays pride. Friend Ron Hecox brought Svenningsen a striped cat toy to glue atop his head as a faux-Hawk for Saturday's game.

"It's about creativity," Hecox said, alongside his friend and long-time fan Svenningsen. "It's about unity, it's about being a fan. The electricity is in the air, you can just feel it."

And it was everywhere from the Rays' gift shop -- where Hecox and Svenningsen were outside waiting -- to the die-hard front row fans like Yvonen Briton and Stacey Appleton, whose Mr. T 'Hawked caps were spray-painted Tampa Bay blue.

"The team started doing this for unity, and we feel we are with the team," Britton said. The friends bought their caps from a local party store several days ago, and both Britton and Appleton -- who have attended nearly every game -- say the trend has caught fire with the fans.

Whether the 'Hawk is real -- like that of fan Willian Bennardo, who also etched a No. 3 in support of rookie Evan Longoria -- or fake, the fans' new 'do isn't lost on the Rays.

"It's a way for people to show their support without even wearing our merchandise," said Miller, who, along with 11-year-old son, Tyler, came to the field on Saturday with freshly shaven Mohawks.

"I guarantee people [in the St. Petersburg area] are seeing people with those [Mohawks], and going, 'Hey, he's a Rays fan.'"

And if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then the long-beleaguered franchise has finally found a welcome home.

"I absolutely love it," Maddon said. "Everybody's on board and we noticed, and it all matters. The energy that it has created, having the fans that involved, it matters. And we take it as a compliment."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.