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Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Fowles: Great Moments in Recent Baseball/Adorable Animal History

If there are two things I really, truly, deeply love, it’s the game of baseball and adorable animals. Both have the ability to distract and to soothe, to offer joy and incredible comfort, and to make us feel better during difficult times. As you can imagine, I’m a total sucker for whenever the two come together, so my unabashed glee was predictable this Wednesday when Major League Baseball saw the debut of the Cardinals’ very own “Rally Cat.”

With the bases loaded and two outs for the Cardinals in the sixth, Rally Cat apparently sprinted from the visitors’ dugout and onto the field at Busch Stadium. After some amused expressions from players, a member of the grounds crew managed to scoop up the energetic feline in question, and then, in a foolish decision I will never, ever comprehend for as long as I live (and am still irrationally angry about,) ran across the field with the cat in hand. My own cats get angry at me if I even look at them wrong, so the very idea of holding one while sprinting across a field sends a death chill through me.

Unsurprisingly, the grounds crew member had to be treated for scratches and bites (oh my god, never, ever run with a cat,) and according to a Cardinals release, in a bizarre turn of events, a fan claimed the cat was hers and “abruptly” left with it. Apparently her intention was the take the cat home, but she lost it outside the stadium and it ran off into the night. Good news, though—as of this morning, it is believed that Rally Cat has been found and is in the care of St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach. (Oh, I missed the part where Yadier Molina hit a grand slam. But who cares. Cat.)

Needless to say, all of this high profile, riveting baseball-related cat drama has got me thinking about great moments in recent baseball/adorable animal history, and has given me a terrific excuse to subject you all to a fun round up of said moments:

“Terrific stuff by the cat:” It would seem that ballparks are popular spots for felines. Who could forget this lovely orange guy who made his way into the stands at Angel Stadium last year? But probably the most notable visitor in recent memory is the Miami Marlins’ Rally Cat, or “Don Cattingly” as he later came to be known. This showstopper acquired league-wide fame in April when he invaded Marlins Park during the sixth, and after being spooked by an umpire, proceeded to impressively scale the outfield wall and find a resting spot on the Marlins Home Run Sculpture. This cat tale (sorry) has a happy ending—a team employee ended up adopting the super shy feline.

“What is it about a squirrel on a baseball field that gets everyone so excited?”: When you look back on the history of baseball and squirrels, it’s pretty obvious they should get their very own post. Major League Baseball has been plagued with their visits over the years, whether it was the famed 2011 postseason interruption care of one particularly speedy specimen, this daredevil dugout bound guy at a 2015 Phillies game, or the more recent May 2017 shenanigans at a Cleveland Royals matchup. Before the Toronto Blue Jays moved to Skydome, Exhibition Stadium was prone to all sorts of squirrelly invasions, and this one managed to stop play multiple times during a 2014 Phillies-Rockies game. (I’m legitimately hypnotized by this video.) Like no other animal, baseball seems to belong to squirrels.

Super Dog Max visits the Tampa Bay Rays: As part of the team’s 2016 Dog Days, this Muppet-looking, eerily human-like certified therapy dog spent some time pushing a wheelbarrow, driving a cart, and hanging out in the dugout with his arms (legs? paws?) around players. The whole tableau, which was heavily documented and disseminated, was equal parts adorable and bizarre, given how the dog was just a little too talented, and a little too animated to feel altogether real.

“Where do you belong little parakeet?:” Birds have the greatest access to baseball stadiums, and seeing typical city birds flying around the park, or hanging around the on deck circle is certainly not noteworthy. (Except maybe that time Kevin Kiermaier got attacked by a pigeon.) Yet the bright yellow parakeet that appeared on the backstop screen at a 2015 Rockies-Mets game was certainly a rarity, and was believed to be an especially good omen; after its appearance newly acquired Yoenis Céspedes, with his matching yellow sleeve, hit his first home run with the team.

Bumgarner on a Horse: Pretty self-explanatory, there’s really not much more to this one beyond 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner carried the championship banner to his teammates on a horse during the 2015 home opener. It’s one of those baseball moments that manages to seem completely ridiculous and totally normal at the same time.

“Weiner Dog Runs Wild on Baseball Field:” In 2015, the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas baseball team hosted an on-field wiener dog race for the amusement of their fans. That would be story enough for me, but one of the intrepid dogs got off the beaten track, decided to take a running tour of the field, and just refused to be caught.  The result is legitimately my favourite baseball/adorable animal footage in the history of the game. (It also brings to mind this husky interrupting a NCAA baseball tournament, and this gem of a glove-stealing canine at a softball game.)

Donald the Donkey: Okay, so not technically an on field animal appearance like the others, but the story of Zack Cozart’s beloved donkey may indeed be the most endearing of the year. As the story goes, Canadian (and dog lover) Joey Votto promised Reds teammate Cozart that if he made the All-Star team, he would buy him a donkey. Votto paid up on his promise, and in late July the shortstop finally met his new companion for the first time.

“I’m excited to finally have my donkey,” he said.