Wednesday, January 26, 2011
SMALLS TALK: Greensboro's 'Bat Dogs'
You don't send a boy to do a dog's job. That's what the Greensboro Grasshoppers believe, at least. In a clubhouse where players are constantly coming and going due to the ever-changing nature of A Ball rosters, 'bat dogs' Babe Ruth and Yogi Berra are the two mainstays at Greensboro's NewBridge Bank Park.
The first time you see the two black labs sitting by the side of the dugout, you can't help but tilt your head in curiosity- 'What's going on? Hmm, why is there a dog on the field? Uh oh, he's walking towards the plate- Hey, grab him!' In your mind, baseball and dogs have never been associated- it doesn't make sense.
Well in Greensboro, it makes perfect sense. Every night is 'Bark at the Park' night with these two on hand, and to be totally honest, they're probably the best 'bat boys' in the league. (They're definitely the best 'bat dogs').
They're awesome. Unlike the usual cast of pre-pubescent bat retrievers, these canines are never distracted- they know their job, they don't get confused, and there's no chance of stepping in their gum that they carelessly spit onto the dugout floor- which I'm only assuming is no fun. Nope, with these dogs it's all business.
They're calm and determined in their work. They retrieve bats at home plate, reload the umpire's ball supply, and provide between-inning entertainment for the fans- ok, for the players, too. And at the end of every game, the two dogs race around the bases in opposite directions, finishing back at home plate where two lucky fans welcome them with treats in hand.
The dogs are well-mannered and by the sixth inning they really just become part of the scenery. They're a great attraction for fans, and as a visiting player I was pretty impressed with the whole concept. These pups knew what they were doing, and aside from a couple of 'mishaps' that had to be scooped off of the outfield turf, the games went along as smoothly as they normally would.
They're as professional as a dog can be, not to mention seeing them around the clubhouse is hysterical- they're part of the staff. They have a game day routine, they hang out with fellow stadium employees, and they're allowed in all the restricted access areas- I'm guessing they're a howl at post-game staff parties as well.
For the purpose of entertaining fans, supporting a family-friendly environment, and totally distracting opposing players, I give Greensboro's Bat Dogs a big thumbs up.
On another note, Greensboro's in-game entertainment emcee may have the most annoying voice of all time. I guess it all evens out.
*Other teams that have Bat Dogs include the Trenton Thunder, Altoona Curve, and Brooklyn Cyclones.
SMALLS TALK Series
Tim Kurkjian is a Man Among Boys
Baseball Movie All-Star Game: Starting Lineups
Pre-Draft Medical Questionnaires
The Ryan Howard Namesake
The Magic of the Rally
Jeter and A-Rod, How Times Have Changed
Summer Leagues - Cape Still Cream of the Crop?
SportsCenter Commercials are Better Than Most Shows
Schilling's Bloody Sock
Red Sox Nation Goes Crazy, JD Drew Can't Be Bothered
Minor League Hats are the Way to Go
Who Has the Best Uniforms in College Baseball?