Barnacle Barb, mateys: Erie's pirate emcee
ERIE, Penn. -- Early in the 2021 season, just a few games into her new job as the Erie SeaWolves' on-field emcee, Cailyn Szelinski had an idea. "Makeup and costuming is a hobby of mine," she explained. "So I asked [the SeaWolves front office], 'Hey, look, I'm crazy enough to
ERIE, Penn. -- Early in the 2021 season, just a few games into her new job as the Erie SeaWolves' on-field emcee, Cailyn Szelinski had an idea.
"Makeup and costuming is a hobby of mine," she explained. "So I asked [the SeaWolves front office], 'Hey, look, I'm crazy enough to do this if you guys let me. I have this character. I'll be a pirate, Barnacle Barb, with this big red wig.' And they were like, 'Yeah, you can do it.'"
And just like that, Szelinski's pirate alter-ego became the SeaWolves' new emcee.
"I decided what I wanted to look like, with the make-up and everything, and Barb was born," she said. "She is a fun-loving, glamorous pirate that is somewhere between Jack Sparrow and Angelica from 'Pirates of the Caribbean.'"
Since 1999, the SeaWolves have played in the Eastern League as the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The franchise was established in 1995 as a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate, however, with the SeaWolves name chosen in part because "sea wolf" is a slang term for a pirate. The team's logo features a wolf wearing an eye patch, and pirate-themed imagery and signage are common throughout UPMC Park. All of this is to say, Barnacle Barb fits right in.
"Minor League Baseball as a whole is so fun," said Szelinski. "You can't go work in a Major League park dressed like a pirate. It's so uniquely Minor League. But the fans here are really dedicated. They care. They know every player. They know everybody on staff. You feel welcome working here."
Szelinski grew up in Waterford, Pennsylvania, located approximately 15 miles from Erie, and returned to the area after graduating from the New School in New York City. She is pursuing a career in broadcast journalism and says that working for the SeaWolves "was the job I wanted."
Szelinski's current stint as Barnacle Barb has certainly increased her profile. During the SeaWolves' penultimate home game on Sept. 10, multiple SeaWolves staffers were wearing Barnacle Barb T-shirts. More notably, a contingent of pirate-costumed "Barnacle Barb Fan Club" members could be found on the third base side of the ballpark.
"Some of it is my family, and it started really small -- just kind of a 'Hey, we're supporting our kid kind of thing,'" said Szelinski, of the fan club. "But it's grown to the fans wanting to be a part of it, wanting to have the shirts and stuff. It just feels really good that they are as invested in Barb as I am."
Now that it's the offseason, Szelinksi says that Baracle Barb is engaged in practical piratical pursuits such as "sailing the seven seas."
"She's out and about. She tells the boy pirates when to back off," she explained. "She's still getting the treasure, but Barb's a lot more sly. She doesn't have to pillage. She just asks and gets her way."
It's clearly been an eventful two years for Szelinksi and her alter-ego, and hopefully there's a lot more to come.
"I'll take it as far as they let me take it," she said. "I would take Barb worldwide if I could. I'm ready to build a Barb empire."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.