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03/26/2008 3:16 PM ET
LOUIE THE LUMBERKING: PLAYING FAIR?
Rumblings get louder regarding added weight, altered physique in 2008
Does Louie have an unfair advantage? You be the judge...

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As the Quad Cities River Bandits and the Clinton LumberKings prepare for their much-anticipated Elite Eight match-up on Thursday in CNBC.com's March Madness-style Minor League Baseball logo tournament, questions have surfaced regarding an apparent change in the appearance of Louie the LumberKing.

"I'm not going to point fingers, but I've had a lot of people ask me if I've noticed a change," said River Bandits Vice President and General Manager Kirk Goodman. "I really don't think it's fair to comment on the issue. I haven't spent much one-on-one time with Louie so I'm not going to speak to his personal habits or the obvious change in his physique, head size, and appearance."

Still, the questions remain. Fans and players alike have noticed a number of changes in Louie's appearance since the end of the 2007 season, including a larger crown size, an increase in facial hair, and strikingly larger biceps and triceps. While he was not mentioned by name in the Mitchell Report, rumors have also indicated that he has been more aggressive since trading in his two-by-four for a baseball bat.

When asked about the all the changes, Louie was evasive. "I'm not here to talk about the past," said the mascot. "I'm just here to talk about tomorrow's match-up."

The soon-to-be named River Bandits mascot chimed in from his winter hideout as he was finishing his final preparations for his first season at Modern Woodmen Park.

"We have a code in the mascot world to play fair, use our natural talents and abilities to entertain the fans, and always treat the game of baseball with the utmost respect," he said. "The only HGH in a mascot's life should be Happy fans, Good times, and Home runs!"

Goodman also noted many fans noticed what seems to be a double standard in baseball.

"I've had many fans ask, 'How is it that Barry Bonds, the all-time home runs leader, can't get a job in baseball but Louie, whose growth in size this past winter far exceeded Bonds', continues to work?' It's a good question, and the fans deserve some answers."

Voting will open for the River Bandits-LumberKings match-up on Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. Central and will close on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. Central. Fans can support the River Bandits by going to www.darrenrovell.com and clicking on Darren Rovell's most recent blog. A link to the contest is also available on www.riverbandits.com.

ABOUT THE RIVER BANDITS: After an off-season full of upgrades, the Quad Cities River Bandits will open the 2008 campaign at Modern Woodmen Park on April 3! Merchandise featuring the new team name and logo is currently available by visiting the Modern Woodmen Park team store, and season ticket packages, mini-packages, and the all-new You-Pick-10 Plan are on sale at the park or by calling (563) 3-BANDIT!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.