The human behind — and inside — Minnesota Twins mascot T.C. Bear is out of the costume for good.
Greg Wilfahrt is no longer portraying the wide-eyed and permanently smiling mascot that he has embodied since the caricature’s birth in 2000, a role he played without missing a regular season or playoff home game for 20 seasons, a team official said Wednesday.
“The Twins have made a change,” according to team spokesman Dustin Morse, who said the move took effect Tuesday.
The change means that Wilfahrt is no longer employed by the team, whose directory had listed him as “mascot supervisor,” Morse said.
Morse declined to say whether the 46-year-old Wilfahrt initiated the move or was fired. “Greg departed the organization, and we thank him for his many years of service,” was all the spokesman would say.
An early hint of the development surfaced with the recent creation of the “OriginalTCBear” account on Twitter, which explains, “This is the account of the person who was the original Twins mascot T.C. from 2000-2019. No longer affiliated with the organization.”
Wilfahrt said Wednesday via Twitter message that he’s not ready to talk about the separation. On Thursday morning, he posted this as the first tweet on his new account:
Morse did assure Twins fans that the concept of T.C. Bear will continue. The team will hold open auditions to figure out who will don the furry costume with the oversized head.
Along with revving fans of all ages at Twins home games and at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., since 2000, T.C. Bear has been making appearances year-round at Twins youth clinics, schools, hospitals and parades. He’s also available for hire for private parties or corporate events.
Wilfahrt was one of about a dozen people who auditioned for the role, said Patrick Klinger, who was the Twins vice president for marketing at the time and creator of the mascot.
While Wilfahrt “struggled in the interview portion” of the audition, “he was by far the best once he put the costume on” and performed in the Gophers football locker room at the Metrodome, which also was the Twins’ home at the time.
“It was just the way he engaged with those who were judging the auditions; his demeanor and his enthusiasm,” Klinger said.
Klinger, who left the team in 2012 but would stay in touch with Wilfahrt, was in awe of him for never missing a home game, calling him “the Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken of mascots.”
“It was not an easy job, but Greg made it look easy,” Klinger said. “He was a pro. He took his job very seriously. It saddens me that he won’t be T.C.”
Chris Okey of Richfield said his 15-year-old son with special needs “is a huge fan” of Wilfahrt as T.C. Bear and got to know his favorite mascot during visits to a meet-and-greet spot in Target Field and at the State Fair.
Okey said he and son Isaac were on their way a week ago to a doctor’s appointment for the teen “when we spotted T.C. at a field renovation at Pearl Park in south Minneapolis.”
“My son was very excited to see him and wanted to stop and say hi,” Okey said. “T.C. was very surprised to see us and very gracious. He’ll be missed by our family.”