If you and your dog are looking to unleash some fun tonight, I have a genius suggestion.
Just hook your best friend up and take him down to Shaw Park for Bark in the Park, where you can watch the Winnipeg Goldeyes battle the St. Paul Saints and help the local ball club break a world record at the same time.
This is the third year for the Goldeyes’ dog-friendly game, but it’s the first time Bark in the Park organizers have set their sights on breaking the Guinness World Record for most dogs attending a sporting event.
This coveted canine record is held by the Chicago White Sox, who welcomed 1,122 dogs to their park for a Major League Baseball game in 2016.
I personally have nothing against Chicago, but it does NOT deserve to hold this record, because — allow me to activate the caps lock feature on my keyboard to emphasize the importance of the following true fact — NO ONE LOVES DOGS THE WAY WINNIPEG LOVES DOGS!
In a sincere and humanitarian effort to get free publicity for its attempt to steal the record from Chicago, Bark in the Park organizers invited my dog Bogey (aka Mr. X) and me to visit Shaw Park Thursday morning to run around on the field and pose for a few photos with the Goldeyes star pitcher, Edwin Carl.
After decking Bogey out in a Goldeyes T-shirt and scarf, we hit the diamond along with Carl’s dog, Snooks, a Maltese-Yorkie mix about the size of a loaf of bread. Also there were Dasi — a terrier cross who became the Bark in the Park poster dog after being rescued from the streets of Peru by Melissa Schlichting, the team’s food and beverage manager — and Rue, a Lab-Husky cross owned by Tara Maslowsky, the team’s promotions manager.
If you have never seen dogs set free to race around like four-legged lunatics on arguably the nicest ball diamond in minor-league baseball, then you have never seen dogs experiencing the rapture of pure, unfettered joy.
Out of journalistic fairness, I should point out that Bogey was the first to christen the beautifully manicured field in the sense he left unexpected "gifts" near home plate and next to the pitcher’s mound, both of which I deftly retrieved by scooping them up in a plastic bag the way an all-star shortstop snaps his glove around a hot line drive, if you catch my subtle drift.
As six-year-old Snooks growled at a Free Press photographer who had foolishly picked up his ball, Carl said the Fish are pumped about the idea of beating the Saints and snatching the most-dogs-at-a-game record from Chicago.
"I think we can do it," the charming 28-year-old pitcher from New Mexico declared as the dogs zoomed out to the warning track. "We’ve always had good support with the fans in this city. It’s a great environment to bring your dogs to. Hopefully, we can make history and everybody can be a part of that.
"My mom is from Chicago, so we’re more Cubs fans than White Sox fans. I don’t want to say that Chicago doesn’t deserve the record, but we’ll do our best to beat them!"
He said his Fish teammates get a bit of added incentive from having four-legged fans woofing them on.
"It’s pretty hard to be in a bad mood on Bark in the Park night," Carl said, laughing. "I think the thing we get really pumped up for is hoping a dog will run out on the field and chase a ball."
Back in the clubhouse, with Bogey panting happily under a boardroom table, Goldeyes public relations spokeswoman and event organizer Sherri Rheubottom explained the origins of this canine-intensive evening, in which the team has set aside 2,400 seats in six sections for dogs and their owners.
"We were starting the Winnipeg Pet Show two years ago and we wanted to launch it at a Goldeyes game. It morphed into everybody bringing their dogs and Bark in the Park was born," said Rheubottom, show manager for Showtime Productions Inc.
As of Thursday, about 700 dogs (and their owners) had bought special $14 tickets for tonight’s game, which is roughly double the 300 dogs that attended in 2015 and the 320 that showed up last year.
"We’ve decided to go head-to-head with the Chicago White Sox," Rheubottom declared. "We absolutely deserve the record. "We want to prove to the world that we love our dogs. If anyone can break the record for most dogs at a sporting event, we can. Winnipeggers are passionate about their dogs.
"Help us break the record, Winnipeg. We want everybody — and their dog — to come out tonight. Tell your friends and families. Let’s show the world we can do it. I think it would be pretty cool for Winnipeg to break the Guinness World Record."
There will be a host of canine-themed activities, including the Pooch Parade at 5:45 p.m., wherein dogs and their owners march around the warning track; and the Pooch Smooch Cam. "It’s like the Kiss Cam at other sporting events, but the dogs smooch their owners," Rheubottom said. Don’t forget the Seventh Inning Fetch, where staff fling tennis balls to the dogs in the Bark Zone.
Most importantly, at the top of the third inning, dogs and owners must be in their seats for 10 minutes to qualify for the record. "The 10-minute countdown clock will begin then," Rheubottom warned. "They have to be seated for 10 minutes watching the game to get the record."
And if you happen to notice a strange deposit on the baseline near home plate, please remain calm, because I’m sure the umpires will spot it in time.