Playing Catch and Fetch:

Bark in the Park

One of the many dogs on hand at the Bark in the Park event keeping an eye on the count.

By Zachary Holt

What’s better than being able to enjoy some late summer baseball at Citi Field to watch the New York Mets play? Getting to watch the Mets play some ball with your furry companions. Several times a year, the New York Mets in collaboration with The North Shore Animal League America organize the event titled “Bark in the Park” that involves a pre-game dog parade, canine-centered activities, and an opportunity to hang out with more pups than imaginable in the Coca-Cola corner of the park. Talk about a dog playdate. It’s a highly popular event bringing countless families and children to take part in the festivities.

Pitcher Zack Wheeler breaking in his glove prior to hitting the mound.

But this event far surpasses just a fun time with dogs at a Mets game. Its philanthropic implication and impact are what the event is ultimately targeting. The North Shore Animal League, an organization that focuses on rescue, nurturing, education, and adoption, is the largest rescue shelter in the world, having given over one million forever homes to animals in need of help. Since the initiation of their corporate partnership in 2005 with the Mets, there have been multiple Bark at the Park events each season, advocating for the adoption awareness.

Perhaps the best part of these events? Being able to witness not only the fans interact with the festivities and the dogs, but also the players. Sometimes it’s hard to think of professional athletes as real people that lead lives, just like us. After all, they’re constantly on television and most of the personal lives aren’t exposed to the public, that is, until something like the Bark in the Park events occurs. Before the game, New York Mets players make sure to get in their time with the puppies and other dogs that are running around. These pre-game “calisthenics” have even led to players adopting dogs in the moment.

In July, one such event occurred at Citi Field and Mets infielder, Jeff McNeil, became the first Mets player to adopt a puppy. After having the opportunity to play with some of the dogs prior to first pitch, McNeil convinced himself that he was going to go home with one after the game. “When I got in the dugout, I said I was getting a puppy. I was pretty happy. How could you not be happy with a puppy in your hands?” McNeil said after.

Perhaps it was the surge of endorphins from the thought of adding a furry member to his family or maybe just the overall elation of getting to hold a puppy before the game started, but something clicked for McNeil that night as he went on to hit a three-run homer and have a day at the plate. The next day, true to their word, McNeil and his wife visited The North Shore Animal League America facility and adopted the puppy that they so enjoyingly had the chance to hold the previous night.

Fans and their pets enjoying the pre-game dog parade festivities.

However, McNeil wasn’t the only one jumping on the puppy train. Amed Rosario, the Mets prized shortstop, who personally has five dogs himself, made sure to get in on the action and throw the ball around the yard. He is a self-proclaimed dog person, through and through. “I love all animals. But dogs are a man’s best friend. If it came down to me, I’d have my house full of dogs. They pick you up when you’re down but at the same time they depend on you” Rosario shared.

He continued, “It was different to see dogs on the field. I love dogs so it was fun to play with the puppies. It’s for a great cause. I hope more people adopt.”

And Rosario couldn’t be more right. It is no enigma that so many animals are waiting for the chance to be rescued and adopted. Just turn on your television. There’s a good chance you’ll see commercials documenting the epidemic that is currently underway with shelter crowding, euthanasia, and gross underfunding. Fortunately, these events like Bark in the Park, with the collaboration of the New York Mets and The North Shore Animal League America, help to promote the narrative of pet adoption and awareness to those who otherwise aren’t privy to the magnitude of this problem.

Regardless of whether you’re able to attend the next Bark in the Park, keep an eye for future events by The North Shore Animal League America, the New York Mets, and other nonprofit organizations for ways to mitigate the massive overcrowding of shelters. Remember, adopt, don’t shop. More info:

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