Minor League Baseball is turning into a dog’s world, thanks to a multitude of Bark in the Park promotions and dogs featured as mascots and bat dogs. This third installment of Promotions Watch covers the canines at the ballpark.
Starting with some of the most notable dog days: the Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League) and the Sacramento RiverCats (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) will feature Bark in the Ballpark days. The RiverCats will host pets on May 24, with the Knights scheduling their event in conjunction with National Dog Day on August 26.
The Delmarva Shorebirds (Low Class A; Sally League) have set their dog day for April 26. For a fee (benefiting the Humane Society of Wicomico County) fans can bring their pets out to the ballpark and be included in a pregame parade. Along with the parade, the Shorebirds are offering Kong Balls and Beaverdam Pet Food samples to the first 500 fans accompanied by their dogs. The Shorebirds are not the only Low Class A squad looking to benefit animal charities: On July 28, the Lake County Captains (Midwest League) will allow dogs into Classic Park on a $5 “pooch pass.”
In what seems to be a growing trend, some teams have decided that a single dog day is not enough. One example is the Inland Empire 66ers (High Class A; California League), who have included Man’s Best Friend Mondays in their weekly promotional schedule. Each Monday fans can bring their pets to the games and take in the action from the ballpark’s grass berm. Beginning on April 13, the 66ers will have six Monday home games.
Several other clubs will host multiple dog-related promotions — the Akron RubberDucks (Class AA; Eastern League) will feature two dog days, the first on June 10, followed by another a little more than a month later on August 19 — including one squad that is making it a monthly event. From April-August, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League) will host one dog day a month, with $1 dog tickets for lawn seating benefiting a regional canine charity. Some non-pet promotions will coincide with the dog days, including a magnet schedule giveaway on April 12 and a Kenny Giles 100 mph Bobblehead on May 11.
Rounding out the highlighted bark-in-the-park events are the El Paso Chihuahuas (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), who are slated to host three. After gaining considerable attention for these promotions a year ago, the Chihuahuas are making them a focal point for this year’s promotional lineup.
GECU Bark at the Park makes its return on three dates: April 12, July 12 and August 2. GECU Bark at the Park made national headlines in 2014 following the release of the dog face jersey earning Minor League Baseball’s Promotion of the Year award (shown above). The organization’s efforts helped raise more than $20,000 from the sold-out crowd for a local nonprofit, saved a chihuahua from euthanization, and raised awareness for pet ownership responsibility.
“A successful promotion engages fans, sells out a baseball game, helps a cause and receives national attention,” said [general manager Brad] Taylor. “Our GECU Bark at the Park game last year did just that and we hope that we continue to be innovative ambassadors for El Paso and our industry.”
As the Chihuahuas and other clubs try to engage their fans by including dog-friendly nights, some teams are taking a different step to make the pets an integral part of their game day experience by using dogs as mascots.
The Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) became the first minor-league team with a bat dog when a golden retriever — Chase That Golden Thunder (shown above) — made his debut in 2002. Chase, who passed away in 2013, was assisted, and eventually succeeded, by his son Home Run Derby. This year Derby will be joined by his son, Rookie, who was named by the fans in a contest last year.
A recent story on NJ.com reported that Rookie will make his Thunder debut during the team’s home opener on April 16. Rookie and Derby are not the lone descendants of Chase to serve as bat dogs in the Eastern League, as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats employ Ollie, Derby’s brother.
Since the Thunder started the trend, several teams have jumped on board. The Greensboro Grasshoppers (Low Class A; South Atlantic League) feature Miss Babe Ruth, Master Yogi Berra, and Miss Lou Lou Gehrig.; last year, Miss Babe Ruth continued her long-running consecutive game streak despite having ear surgery just days before. Master Yogi Berra received attention when he was ejected from a 2009 game for, in the Grasshoppers’ words, “relieving himself on the field,” while Miss Lou Lou Gehrig received coverage for her role as the official bat dog of last year’s ACC Tournament, which was hosted at Greensboro’s NewBridge Bank Park.
Another longtime dog in the minors is Deuce of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High Class A; Carolina League). Deuce (shown to the right) has been with the Pelicans since 2008, performing as bat dog as well as delivering baseballs to the umpires during games. Among independent leagues, the York Revolution (Atlantic League) has featured Boomer as its team dog since 2010.
More teams will be joining that group, with at least two minor league squads announcing the addition of dogs to their front office. The Midland RockHounds (Class AA; Texas League) revealed recently that they are training Bailey to become part of their mascot lineup. Over the offseason, the Reno Aces (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) took in Princess, initially on a temporary basis. The team attempted over the span of a couple months to find a permanent home for Princess by featuring her prominently on their social media channels and using her for several marketing materials, including this ad for a Valentine’s Day special:
Finally, on February 10, the Aces announced that Princess would be adopted by assistant general manager Andrew Daugherty. The Aces have confirmed that Princess will become the team’s official dog and be present at the games this year. She continues to be frequently featured on the team’s Facebook and Twitter pages, which could help make her an immediate fan favorite once the season rolls around.