Two of my favourite things are baseball and dogs. So it goes without saying that the Dog Day at the Ballpark promotion is easily my favourite at the Rogers Centre. This year will be the 7th year in a row the team has run the promotion and it promises to be one of the more interesting days at the ballpark throughout the season. The Jays are not the only team to employ this promotion – let’s have a look at the history of these “Dog Days.”
Bring-your-dog-to-the-ballpark promotions have become as common as fireworks and bobblehead days as a means to draw fans to baseball games. MLB teams like the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays, as well as many minor-league teams, are holding dog days throughout the season.
With the trend of doing more with your pets – certain pet-friendly employers allow workers to bring their pet to work – it only makes sense to be able to bring your dog to the ballgame. Baseball games are a great way to have a family-friendly outing, why exclude an integral member of the family in the form of the family dog?
The Chicago White Sox, heavily steeped in the tradition of off-the-wall ballpark promotions hatched by owner Bill Veeck, were not surprisingly the first team to hold the promotion in 1996. Capped at 500 dog-friendly tickets, this promotion is one of the most popular and tickets were sold out in March of last year.
Most dog days include the opportunity for dogs to take their owner-fans on the field, doggy treat bags and special grass areas for rest breaks. Season ticket owners who aren’t down with dogs are offered alternative seating for the game.
Watching a baseball game with one hand on a leash can be distracting – but that’s not really the point. The experience is for fun and for family bonding – no matter how big or small your family is. It’s also a way to attract new fans to the game and maybe get a look at some potential replacements for the centrefield position.
Dogs are invited to Wednesday night home games of the Colorado Springs SkySox of the Pacific Coast League. They get to lounge in a grassy area along the third-base line and check out canine-themed exhibits known as Puppypalooza. The Sox, the Colorado Rockies’ Class AAA affiliate, started Bark in the Park nine years ago. At first, Rai Henniger, the team’s senior vice president for marketing and promotions, said that he thought he would have to bring in ”world-class Frisbee dogs” for every game. ”People liked that, but all they really cared about was going to the game with their best friend.”
The Detroit Tigers will bring Milt Wilcox, a former pitcher from the 1984 World Series team who has a black lab named Sparky, onto the field to entertain the crowd with agility-based tricks. Sparky is of course named after former manager Sparky Anderson.
There is some red tape that the dogs must pass before being admitted to the ballpark. Dogs generally must be a minimum of six months old to attend the ballgame. Also, you’ll need to fax or present a copy of your dog’s current vaccinations from a licensed veterinarian before the game or you won’t be able to pick up your tickets or be allowed admittance. All dogs must wear an ID tag to the game and must be socialized enough to interact with people and other dogs. That being said, teams do their best to accomodate their special-interest fanbase. Fireworks are omitted to celebrate homeruns, instead pre-recording bark tracks are played to mark the occasion. A veterinarian is usually in attendance in case of emergency.
The San Francisco Giants held their annual ”Dog Days of Summer” promotion for the 13th year in a row last year. It typically occurs in August to coincide with the consensus beginning of the dog days of summer. The promotion includes a pre-game parade and costume contest and every canine friend received a complimentary Giants leash.
The Florida Marlins respect the free-spirited canine contingent by having no restrictions to one specific section – you will find them sniffing and socializing all over the ballpark. The Atlanta Braves promotion is known as “The Bark in the Park Event” with tickets costing $25 to grant admission for one dog and one human. Taking place annually since 2006, the promotion is one of the largest, attracting 5,200 fans and 2,600 dogs every year.
Besides being a fun day at the ballpark and an opportunity to bond with man’s best friend, proceeds for every Dog Day Event go directly to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society, or Dog-centric charity.
On August 20th, 2005, The New York Mets hosted the city’s first ever “Snausages Dog Day in the Park.” Spearheaded by former Mets pitcher Kris Benson and his wife Anna Benson, this marked the first time dogs were welcome in a New York stadium. The response was overwhelming, as over 700 humans and 400 dogs watched the Mets win against the Washington Nationals that magic evening.
A similar promotion, “Dog Day in the Park,” began with a pre-game parade around the baseball field, led by Mr. Met, the Mets mascot, and Snocrates the Snausages dog. The canine participants were treated like VIPs — Very Important Puppies — as players stopped to pet the passing dogs and photographers snapped away. The dogs proudly trotted around the field as if they knew that they were walking on a field many two-legged Mets fans only dreamed of touching.
Once the game started, the dogs and their owners watched the action from the Picnic Area bleachers. Canine fans enjoyed doggie goodie bags, ate Snausages from the Snausages Snack Bar, and cooled off in baby pools filled with water. Workers from waste removal companies walked around with pooper scoopers and poop bags cleaning up any accidents. All fans — both two and four-legged — were well behaved, watching the game and making new friends.
Eric Schwam drove from New Jersey to watch the game with his American Bulldog, Wilson. Having been a Mets fan for 28 years, he was ecstatic when he heard about the opportunity. “It’s absolutely great for the family, kids, and dogs. Hands down, best promotion ever.” Dog loving baseball fans have former Mets pitcher, Kris Benson, and his wife, Anna, to thank for the successful event. Both animal lovers, and the owners of ten dogs, the couple has always supported local humane societies. When Kris was traded to the New York Mets in 2004, Anna spoke with Mets Vice President of Media Relations, Jay Horwitz, about a possible dog event. Loving the idea, the Mets decided to hold the promotion to benefit the New York based North Shore Animal League (NSAL), the Nation’s largest no-kill animal adoption organization.
The event was a barking success for the NSAL as they received donations from the New York Mets, Snausages, and from fans through donation boxes located outside of the stadium. One-hundred percent of the dog ticket sales went to the NSAL as well. In addition, several homeless animals found homes through mobile adoption vans present that night.
North Shore Animal League Events Director, Jill Wendrow, says the event was successful for more than just raising money. “Working with the New York Mets for the Dog Day in the Park was a wonderful opportunity for the League to reach out overall to tens of thousands of people through pre-game coverage and the fans attending the game, bringing awareness to the importance of adopting a shelter pet.”
In Toronto the Dog Day event is held to raise funds and awareness for the Ontario SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). A special seating section in the 100-Level Outfield is reserved for the Jays four-legged friends and $2 from every ticket sold goes to help support the Ontario SPCA. One of the highlights of a day filled with activities includes a pregame parade of all participants along the outfield warning track. Although all dogs are free of admission, the Jays brass have the right to refuse admission to certain dogs so make sure you keep your dog out of the pre-game beers and muzzle his/her heckling voice until you get inside the ballpark.
“Dog Day gives the whole family, including your dog, a chance to enjoy a day at the stadium for a Blue Jays game,” said Craig Mabee the Director of Development for the ONTARIO SPCA. “The funds raised through this event help support our lifesaving work, which includes rescue, rehabilitation and adoption services for the countless animals that come into our shelters in need of care and hope every year.”
Below is a first person account of what you can expect at the Jays’ Dog Day from writer Glen Hodgson:
Tickets for the “Dog Zone” are specially-priced at $33.00 (inclusive of all taxes and fees). The Dog-Day-Date for 2010 has not yet been announced by the Toronto Blue Jays marketing department but I anticipate that they will continue this well-received promotion. I certainly hope so – if I can swing it I would like to bring my dog Señor Teduardo to the game this year. The only problem is that he is a free spirit and doesn’t socialize well with others – especially Yankee and Red Sox fans.