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Sometimes it's a zoo out there at the ballpark

Animals on field entertaining distractions on Minors' landscape
May 23, 2024

With bat dogs a popular fixture for teams in the Minor Leagues, it's not unusual to encounter a good boy or girl when you visit a Minor League ballpark. But other species are a different story. Here are some examples of unusual animals finding their way onto the field:

With bat dogs a popular fixture for teams in the Minor Leagues, it's not unusual to encounter a good boy or girl when you visit a Minor League ballpark. But other species are a different story.

Here are some examples of unusual animals finding their way onto the field:

When cicada summer turns into snack food
A pair of evidently very hungry Double-A Rocket City fans pulled out all the stops on May 22, 2024, to get a free protein crunch wherever they could. The broadcasting team was appalled. Trash Pandas fans gasped in horror when their antics were displayed on the videoboard. But with a cicada onslaught expected for the summer of '24, there were at least two fewer critters left to roam. Full story »

Turtle makes mad dash for the shell of it
Animals known for their speed and agility have long run wild on Minor League fields nationwide. But we bet you've never seen a turtle go 0 to ... well, not quite 60, but point taken, like this one. Single-A Bradenton outfielders had some real "hold me back!" energy going on May 11, 2024, upon seeing the reptile take to the grass. Thankfully, a member of the Marauders' bullpen came to the rescue ... and then earned the save as a cherry on top. Full story »

Can't you smell that smell?
Stop us if you've smelled this one before. At Harrisburg's FNB Field on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, a skunk stole the spotlight -- and caused a delay of over two minutes -- during the game between the Double-A Bowie Baysox (Orioles) and Senators (Nationals). The little striped creature may not have meant to cause a big stink, but this marked the second time this year these two teams were interrupted by a skunk at this ballpark. Full story »

A wild goose chase
An out had not even been recorded in High-A Hudson Valley’s contest against Brooklyn on May 18, 2023, when the game took a turn for the wacky. When the bird nonchalantly walked across the outfield grass, Renegades right fielder Aldenis Sanchez showed absolutely no fear, immediately charging at it at full speed with his arms flapping. But not intimidated by the Yankees prospect, the goose glided away and continued its stroll. a quartet of groundskeepers jogged into the outfield and started to run after the water fowl, at first to no avail. This goose seemed to dodge the crew like a running back, darting through legs and using its wings to pick up some extra speed. Ultimately it surrendered by plopping down onto the grass as a groundskeeper reached down, picked it up and promptly released the bird into the woods behind the stadium. Full story

Who let the animals out in the Eastern League?
On May 10, 2023 wildlife briefly interrupted the action at two different Double-A ballparks in Pennsylvania -- first a squirrel in the New Hampshire-Reading game, and then a skunk in the Bowie-Harrisburg contest. The squirrel in Reading seemed to want to run the bases -- it scooted from the area around first base right down the basepath to second, but needed a breather around shortstop. The squirrel then continued to run around the third-base line and back to short, appearing to pause briefly to soak up crowd applause. The situation proved to be more of an immediate concern during a one-run game in Harrisburg. A skunk trolled around left field for a couple of minutes until a member of the grounds crew decided enough was enough. The sound of a human jogging toward it was enough to spook the skunk back, and the two looked like they were participating in a slow race along the warning track until the critter slipped under the center-field wall. Full story

The accidental Tourist
Asheville, the High-A Astros affiliate, was on the road when a black bear entered the friendly confines of McCormick Field on June 8, 2022. Tourists assistant GM Hannah Martin came on to's "The Show Before the Show" podcast nine days later to give a first-hand account of the visit. Martin said the bear just calmly moseyed around the warning track, passing by the home dugout before going into the visitors' dugout and eventually the seating bowl. And then the bear took its leave as casually as it came in, walking back through a gate and going back into the woods. According to Martin, the staff had been used to seeing bears (and other critters) in Asheville's parking lot and by the operations shed, but never on the field before. Maybe it just wanted to visit one of the team's mascots, Ted E. Tourist.

It's a new season for unexpected guests too
Two days, two critters. As Arizona's Triple-A affiliate Reno pointed out, it's not a Minor League season until there's an animal of some sort on the field. The Aces get some kind of recognition for pointing out the first unscheduled visit of the season on 2022 Opening Night against Las Vegas. Hot on the heels of the unscheduled slithering guest came another unexpected visitor as Triple-A Buffalo hosted Iowa on April 4. As the Bisons later told's Ben Hill on Twitter, "Sahlen Field debut for this guy... didn't seem to appreciate it when we asked to see his ticket."

'Guess who's back'
On Aug. 3, 2019, a skunk interrupted the Pacific Coast League game between the Omaha Storm Chasers and Reno Aces at Greater Nevada Field. The skunk came charging onto the outfield grass like Mariano Rivera jogging in from the Yankees bullpen. Reno broadcaster Ryan Radtke was quick to point out that Aces center fielder Ben DeLuzio gave the animal a wide berth. "(He's) getting as far away as he can, and I don't blame him one bit." The skunk displayed 80-level speed before escaping under the outfield fence. It was not the first time a skunk stopped by Reno. Since they're omnivorous, perhaps it was the Triple Play Burger that drew one to the Aces-Tacoma Rainiers game on July 17, 2018.

'Rally skunk' audition
A legend could've been born on July 18, 2019 at then-Class A Advanced Salem's Haley Toyota Field. With the Red Sox trailing visiting Down East, 7-2, in the bottom of the ninth, a skunk made its way across the outfield. With head groundskeeper Joey Elmore tracking him while keeping a safe distance, the "tuxedoed critter" eventually crossed the right-field foul line and past the Wood Ducks bullpen. As the animal exited, chants of "Rally skunk, rally skunk!" could be heard. The Sox got a three-run double from Michael Osinski, but came up short in a 7-5 loss.

Creating buzz in Corpus Christi
Double-A Corpus Christi outfielder Carmen Benedetti called it "just another day in the life of a Minor Leaguer." However, not many games are delayed nearly 90 minutes by a swarm of bees in the dugout. That's what happened on July 8, 2018 at Whataburger Field, where the players waited for a professional beekeeper to disperse the unwelcome visitors. "We're all loose about stuff like this, be it weather delays or a swarm of bees. We're in the clubhouse keeping focus and getting ready for whenever we get the OK to start the game," he said, adding, "I guess bugs just like baseball." Benedetti and his teammates were unfazed as they pulled away for a 9-2 victory. Full story

The bird is the word
The most remarkable thing about what happened on July 4, 2018 in Class A Peoria might be the fact that Jesus Cruz did not miss a stride. The Chiefs' starting pitcher had just been lifted in the fifth by manager Chris Swauger. As he headed toward the dugout, a bird flew right at the Cardinals prospect. Cruz plucked it out of the air, but the creature fell to the ground. The then-23-year-old scooped it up and nestled it in his glove. "I wasn't scared at all," Cruz said through an interpreter. "I just saw it and the bird landed in my hand and I just kept walking." He looked skyward, made several signs of the cross in an attempt to bless the bird, then picked it out of its makeshift nest. "It's not very often something like that happens. I was just thanking God for everything and the bird in hand too and thanking him for a good game," said Cruz, who exited too early to get the win in Peoria's 13-4 rout of Burlington. Full story

Why did it have to be a snake?
Staying in the reptile family, snakes move silently, stealthily. That explains why play continued for several minutes on May 12, 2018 before anyone at Double-A San Antonio's Nelson Wolff Stadium noticed the rather large snake in the outfield grass. "I heard someone from the stands yell, 'There's a snake in center field,' but I thought they were just messing around," Missions center fielder Michael Gettys said. "I think a couple pitches went by and then after the out, I just kind of looked over to my right ... and I just saw it. That was it." Head groundskeeper Nic Kovacs, who helped round up the reptile, estimated it to be 5 feet long. "We've seen snakes around our shop area before, but never on the field," he said. One night earlier, also in the eighth inning, a cat wandered on to the warning track. "I don't know what's going on," Gettys said. Full story

A case of really bad timing
The hare that halted play in Class A Quad Cities on April 23, 2017 obviously did not have access to a calendar. First of all, it was Bark in the Park Day at Modern Woodmen Park. And Easter Sunday was a week earlier. But in the second inning of the River Bandits' 5-4 loss to Clinton, the long-eared critter dashed past the Quad Cities dugout and raced across the pitcher's mound. "I've never seen anything like it," River Bandits outfielder Ronnie Dawson said. "I figured something happened, like the pitcher called time or the catcher wanted to go to the mound, but all of a sudden I see the rabbit on the field. ... Once I saw the rabbit, I thought we were going to see a bunch of dogs get onto the field to chase the rabbit." Full story

'Another Minor League Baseball moment'
You can pin this one on the Nookie Monster. It was the sixth inning on Aug. 25, 2016 when the Class A Short Season State College Spikes mascot came out to entertain the crowd at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Unfortunately, according to the Spikes broadcast team, the Nookie Monster left open a gate that allowed a Barbados black belly sheep to follow. The sheep -- mistaken initially for a goat -- was part of the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo, a touring act popular in Minor League stadiums. Still with us? The animal broke into a trot as it passed Batavia Muckdogs right fielder Aaron Knapp before it was wrangled off the field and through the Spikes bullpen. State College rolled to a 15-3 win.

Maverick vs. the possums
Royals outfielder Brett Phillips, nicknamed Maverick, is famous for his laugh. But in Minor League circles, he's just as well known for his two encounters with opossum. They occurred less than two years apart while Phillips was a highly ranked prospect in the Astros, then the Brewers system. On July 30, 2014, he was in the on-deck circle in Quad Cities when one of the marsupials made its way onto the field. Phillips waved his bat at the opossum, which eventually was trapped in a garbage can. With order restored, the former sixth-round Draft pick promptly extended his home run streak to five games. Flash forward to April 30, 2016 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Now a member of the Double-A Shuckers, Phillips had another close encounter with a 'possum. He was in center field when the creature appeared on the warning track, then engaged in a slow-speed chase while shooing past the visiting bullpen and out of MGM Park. "I think it was the same opossum who traveled back from Iowa that night and wanted his revenge," Phillips joked. "The fans gave me a great standing ovation after I got rid of him. I probably saved a couple of children's lives. That standing ovation my last at-bat was great, but I ended up striking out. Like I said, it was the opossum's fault." Full story

Only in Florida
The Charlotte Stone Crabs, Class A Advanced affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, returned from a brief road trip on July 24, 2015 and discovered a 10-foot alligator catching some shade under the bench in the visitors' dugout at Charlotte Sports Park. "Everybody was out there, coaches were out -- it was awesome, kind of cool. Welcome to the Florida State League," said Stone Crabs pitcher Brent Honeywell Jr.. While it was not uncommon to find gators on the back fields, the dugout was something new. "I was going to get down there and take a picture -- I'm not afraid of them, but I'm not going to antagonize him. It's like 800 pounds," Honeywell said. "I was going to get close with him and take a selfie, and someone started freaking out. I thought, 'OK, I'm not going to push the envelope, I'm going to sit here.'" Animal control officials removed the reptile, but the game was postponed due to rain. Full story