Americans love baseball, hence why most call it America’s Pastime. For the Minnesota Twins home opener, the national anthem had a little more ‘Merica in it than normal.
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton was standing in left field as the anthem started. As the song played, Challenger the bald eagle was released from center field as a handler waited for the eagle to land behind home plate.
Challenger had other ideas, and swooped and landed next to Paxton for a moment. Then he flapped his wings and tried to preach on Paxton’s shoulder.
Paxton calmly ducked, and the eagle landed on the Canadian’s back. Paxton tried to stand upright, but Challenger fell off his back.
“I kind of ducked it so it wouldn’t fly into my face,” Paxton said after the game. “It was, I think, trying to stand on my back.”
It was not the first time that an animal has interfered with a sporting event, nor will it be the last. But where does it sit on the list of best animal interferences?
Rally Cat in St. Louis
On August 9, the St. Louis Cardinals trailed the Kansas City Royals by a run in the sixth inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases before the game was paused.
A stray cat found its way onto the field and ran around while one member of the grounds crew went to fetch it.
After getting caught, the cat fought for freedom, scratching and biting, but was escorted out of the ballpark.
Yadier Molina hit a grand slam on the next at-bat to give the Cardinals the lead. Fans quickly dubbed the cat Rally as St. Louis held on to win.
Rally got lost again later that night and was captured by the St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach and brought in to their shelter. A public spat between the ball club and the shelter is one of the odder sports stories in the past year. But long story short, the club is not the home of Rally anymore.
Squirrel scores more than Kent State
When Louisville hosted Kent State for a football game last fall, the outcome was expected. Louisville won 42-3 as quarterback Lamar Jackson broke the school record for career touchdowns.
Kent State didn’t find the end zone all game long, but a free-roaming squirrel did break through the Cardinals’ defense.
Late in the second half, the squirrel got loose in the open field and broke for a 45-yard run. He was all alone as the crowd looked on. The squirrel broke the plane, and the stadium erupted.
As TV commentator Wes Durham declared, “He is my favorite squirrel.”
The little guy was too gassed to celebrate his accomplishment. He lay down in the back of the end zone to catch his breath.
Seagull at TPC Sawgrass
The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most notorious in all of golf. A par 3 with an island green is nothing short of treacherous.
Brad Fabel’s tee shot in the Players Championship dropped nicely on the green. As he approached the floating green, a seagull approached his ball and started to bite it.
The bird chased the ball around the green as Fabel looked on. But as Fabel got closer, the seagull picked up the ball and flew off.
The journey was short lived for the golf ball as it slipped out and fell into the lake.
Thankfully for Fabel, it was ruled that he could replace the ball on the green. But he three-putted for bogey on the hole.
Randy Johnson’s cannon connects
It was just a spring training game, but baseball hall of famer Randy Johnson has a big arm. The Big Unit was on the mound for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the San Francisco Giants.
In the seventh inning, Johnson delivered a pitch to Calvin Murray. The pitch didn’t make it to the plate.
Instead, a dove picked an inopportune time to swoop down, right into the path of the pitch. The pitch struck the bird and exploded into a puff of feathers.
The dove perished, and the pitched was ruled a no pitch instead of a foul ball.