Up Close and Purr-sonal in State College
“Bark in the Park” nights — in which fans are invited to bring their dogs to the stadium — have long been a promotional staple in Minor League Baseball. The State College Spikes are one of many teams to have staged such an endeavor, with next month’s version expected to draw over 400 canines.
This success led the team to ask themselves a truly daring, and seemingly absurd, question: “What if we did ‘Bark in the Park’, but for cats?”
What resulted was “Purr in the Park,” an evening-long celebration of felines.
Given their innate anti-social tendencies and general aloofness, the Spikes knew going in that “Purr in the Park” was not going to reach the proportions of its barking counterpart. The final cat attendance total was a modest, but still respectable, 12.The cats were granted entry so long as they were on a leash or in a carrier, and were welcome throughout the concourse as well as the right field seating area.
Cats were the focal point of the in-game entertainment, of course. The scoreboard graphics all had a feline theme:
Another apropos “Simpsons” character would have been the “Crazy Cat Lady,” who surely would have enjoyed the team’s meow-centric version of the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
The night also included the “Nine Lives Challenge”, in which two hearty combatants participated in challenges such as the “Warm Milk Chug” and the “Kitty Litter Dig.” I particularly enjoyed watching the “Warm Milk Chug,” as the loser in the contest is escorted off the field by a sympathetic gorilla.
But as the Spikes pointed out in their press release, not even “Purr in the Park” could keep canines out of the ballpark: Not only are the Batavia MuckDOGS the Spikes’ opponent on the field, but fans can feast on $1 hot dogs all game long as part of Dollar Dog Monday.
But the Spikes weren’t about to let the Muckdogs steal the spotlight — not on this night! The Spikes scored two in the seventh and three in the eighth before Justin Bencsko homered in the ninth, propelling the home team to a thrilling 7-6 victory.
It was victory by a whisker; anything less would have been cat-astrophic.