With four teams -- Double-A Tennessee and Class A Bowling Green, Burlington and Columbia -- set to introduce bat dogs to an already impressive roster when the 2020 season begins, it's not unusual to encounter a good boy or girl when you visit a Minor League ballpark.Other species are a different
With four teams -- Double-A Tennessee and Class A Bowling Green, Burlington and Columbia -- set to introduce bat dogs to an already impressive roster when the 2020 season begins, it's not unusual to encounter a good boy or girl when you visit a Minor League ballpark.
Other species are a different story.
Here are 10 examples of unusual animals finding their way onto the field:
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., currently the Rays' No. 6 prospect. 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
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 missing 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
'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.
'That's just not ... what we want to see'
Three years later, State College was invaded again, this time by a skunk. Last Aug. 18, the bushy-tailed mammal took advantage of a rain delay to sneak onto the field. And while the Spikes broadcaster opined, "There's no one in this organization that's gonna capture him," the solution proved simple. Someone off camera rolled a baseball that halted the skunk in its tracks and sent it scurrying toward the bullpen before ducking into a burrow along the bleachers. Another skunk, two more State College wins as the Spikes swept a doubleheader from Auburn.
'Guess who's back'
A couple of weeks earlier on Aug. 3, a skunk interrupted the Pacific Coast League game between the Omaha Storm Chasers and Reno Aces at Greater Nevada Field. With a tail that was not nearly as fluffy as its Pennsylvania cousin, this 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.
Salem has a skunk problem
A legend could've been born last July 18 at 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
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
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
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 Biloxi 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
Daren Smith is an editor for MiLB.com.