It’s that tried and trusted baseball trick which never fails. You’re down in the sixth innings to the Kansas City Chiefs.
A potentially season-saving fourgame winning streak is in danger. Two outs and need some help. So, of course, you send on a feral cat to spice things up and refocus worried minds.
The use of animals, wild or not, is outlawed in the MLB but the little moggie which ran out at Busch Stadium in St Louis last week has already been adopted by the Cardinals as their new go-to good-luck magnet.
Whenever something foreign spurts onto the turf – a dog, snake, bugs, a human with a severe lack of clothing – there’s laughter and merriment in the stands. It often dies down quickly. Normal service is resumed.
“I thought there was a streaker on the field to be honest, but I was happy it was a cat.” said Cards manager Mike Matheny.
But no sooner had the cat scratched the hands of the brave ground staffer who deposited his new friend away from the action before heading to the nearest hospital for a few precautionary jabs, something even more exciting exploded from the bat of Yadier Molina.
From the very next pitch the Cardinals ace, with the bases fully loaded, launched a huge home run into the bleachers and in the blink of an eye, a 4-5 scoreline was instantly transformed.
It provided a platform for St Louis to keep their winning run alive and, crucially, helped them leapfrog Milwaukee into second place in the NL Central. “I’m not a cat person, but I sure like that one,” smiled Matheny afterwards.
“It’s amazing,” Molina added. “You see some animal coming through a field. You expect people to jump on the field but you never expect an animal. It was fun.”
Cardinals fans are big animal fans. Memories are still fresh and hearts remain dear for the rogue squirrel who made a shock appearance at a playoff game against the Phillies in 2011.
The little critter showed a wonderful penchant for timing, running across home plate as visiting pitcher Roy Oswalt was about to unleash at Skip Schumaker. Thunderous calls for ‘no-pitch’ were swatted away by the umpires.
What happened next? The Cardinals won the NLCS and then scooped the big one. That was the last time St Louis were crowned world champs so it’s hardly surprising that a frantic search for the magic cat was sparked on Wednesday once the Chiefs had been dispatched, even if he led everyone on a merry dance.
Once being hauled off the pitch, he disappeared into the arms of a fan who claimed it was hers. Proving a terrifically hard cat to mark, it slipped loose again and went missing in a city park called Citygarden.
But fear not. Enter the good people of the St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach to save the day. Six traps were set near where he wriggled free while volunteers staked out the area all night and eventually came up trumps.
“We are pretty confident that this is Rally Cat,” said Savannah Rigley, part of the outreach time who found the cat the very next day.
“This is cat-nerd stuff, but Rally Cat is a classic tabby, which is very rare, and last night we found a classic tabby kitten right where Rally Cat was last seen.” The Cardinals, to the delight of their now feline crazy fan base, triumphantly tweeted a photo of their new little friend, all safe and sound for the baseball world to see – and poke fun at.
The hashtag #RallyCat isn’t going away anytime soon. Friday night’s win over Atlanta helped St Louis keep right on the tails of reigning champs the Chicago Cubs.
The cat is already a hero and if the Cards go all the way this season for the first time in six years, expect the furry little guy to be moved into a palatial five bed mansion with enough canned tuna and milk to last a lifetime.
Yet beware. The Cubs blamed a cursed goat for 108 years without landing the big one. Pray for the cat. The little minx could well become an unwanted jinx.
First NHL. Then NFL, Now USL. Las Vegas has quickly jumped aboard the train after decades of worries over the area’s unsuitability to host sporting events.
And from next season in the USL – the second tier of US soccer which is aiming to rival England’s Championship – Sin City will have their very own team to take the league to a whopping 33 teams.
With MLS reserve teams giving the competition a serious feel of authenticity, the new team in Nevada joins up with fellow newcomers Nashville and Fresno in what promises to be a ram-packed push for honors.
The arrival of soccer is another feather in the cap for Vegas’ attempts to become one of the premier sporting destinations in the world.
The proposed names, however, need some work. Six are up for consideration: Las Vegas FC, Las Vegas Lights, Las Vegas Action, Viva Vegas, Club Vegas and Las Vegas Silver. Just keep it simple, chaps.
Basketball fans have been going kit crazy. With Nike replacing Adidas as the NBA’s official apparel supplier for the first of eight seasons this autumn, their designers have been busy showing exactly what will be on offer.
And with the introduction of the sportswear giant into the League, a number have changes have followed suit.
Teams will no longer have home and road uniforms – hosts can wear what they want while visitors just have to make sure there’s no colour clashes.
And just in case supporters don’t fancy the latest creation, salvation is on offer – there will be two new ones coming out by the end of the year. Some franchises – the Bucks, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Lakers, Pacers, Suns and Warriors – will be releasing retro shirts.
Meanwhile, 12 of the 30 teams have signed up for a sponsorship patch although none will go close to the coolness of Milwaukee’s backers – none other than iconic motorcycle company Harley-Davidson.
Nobody turns the statement ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ into more of a fallacy than Kristen Hetzel, who is a worldNo7 duathlete, actress, model, physical therapist and holds a degree in biochemistry.
Hetzel has been an athlete all her life and dabbled in every sport before committing herself to duathlon. Many may consider it to be inferior to triathlon, but Kristen thinks otherwise and recently qualified to represent Team USA in the 2018 Duathlon World Championships.
She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Sport360 about her journey.
My name is Kristen Hetzel and I am from Wheeling, West Virginia. I am a Duathlete on Team USA. I have qualified to be on Team USA each year for the World Champion ships since 2012, and have been a Duathlon All-American for the last six years.
I am currently seventh in the world in my division. I am also a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and do modelling and acting in Los Angeles, where I currently reside.
That is a good question. I love all three parts of my careers (my athletics, physical therapy, and acting/ modelling) but I would say being a duathlete is what I love the most and brings me the most joy.
It is what I choose to give the majority of my time and attention to, and I have been doing it long enough that I understand the sport well; how to train, how to race, and how to recover.
I am excited and honoured to participate in the 2018 Duathlon World Championships in Denmark. Denmark is a place I have always wanted to visit.
Having the opportunity to combine a trip to Denmark with representing my country and competing in a sport that I love is the best. I am very much looking forward to it.
I have a unique perspective on this because I also do triathlons. My primary event is the duathlon, but my racing season each year consists of competitive triathlons as well.
I, therefore, do not think that the duathlon is easier, and in many ways it is harder. During the swim portion of a triathlon, you are primarily using your upper body.
Yes, you use your legs for kicking but it is a very different motion — different mechanics — than how you use your legs while running or biking. Then you do the bike and run portion of the triathlon.
In duathlon, you run, then bike, then run again. So your legs are already tired from the first run, are very fatigued and worked. Thenthose leg muscles hammer on the bike, and then have to come back again and finish hard with a second run.
Many duathletes have the most trouble on the second run. They may be able to run hard once, but on the second run, the legs may be too fatigued to hold a fast pace.
The duathlon is gaining more recognition. The sport of triathlon has evolved to where it is now a well-known and highly respected event. The duathlon is newer and therefore is still evolving as a sport, but is definitely gaining more respect and popularity.
Even since 2012, when I first began the sport of duathlon, it has become much more popular and much more competitive.
I pretty much train twice a day every day. Some days I have three training sessions. I have a professional coach who designs my workouts, Marilyn Chychota with Endurance Corner. She’s amazing.
Since I train for all three sports (swimming, biking and running), my workouts vary. One day might be run-bike workouts and the next day might be swim-run workouts, or run-bike-run workouts. I also do strength training and weightlifting in the gym.
As for my diet, I eat a fairly balanced diet. I definitely eat plenty of quality protein like chicken, beef or fish, pasta and vegetables. I also have a lot of protein smoothies with pea protein powder and fruits.
I want to keep improving and growing in the sport of duathlon so I can achieve my potential. On the acting side of things, I would like to do more commercials, and get more into film and TV.
Believe in yourself, trust yourself, and love yourself. Believe that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to and that you are worth it.
Trust that you know what’s best for you. No one else can ever decide what is best for you, or tell you what brings you joy, or what you are passionate about, only you can choose and decide that.
Two years on from sleeping rough in Budapest on a perilous trek from Syria to Germany, teenage refugee Yusra Mardini is back in the Hungarian capital competing in the world swimming championships.
“I promised myself I’d come back to Budapest another way,” the 19-year-old told reporters on Sunday after finishing her 100m butterfly heat.
Now based in Berlin, Mardini gained international attention after surviving near-drowning trying to reach Greece in 2015.
A year later she won her heat in the Rio Olympics as part of the Games’ first ever refugee team.
During a 25-day journey from her war-ravaged homeland, Mardini used her swimming skills to help drag a leaking dinghy carrying 16 people to the Greek shore, after the engine broke down.
“My sister (Sara) jumped into the water first, then I jumped in after her, (with two men) we had one hand each on the boat and tried to swim and kick to shore,” she said.
After more than three hours in the water they arrived on the island of Lesbos, and trekked northwards before getting stuck in Budapest for a week.
Hungary became a hotspot of the migration crisis in mid-2015, after the authorities temporarily blocked onward travel to neighbouring Austria and Germany, which transformed Budapest’s railway stations into vast makeshift refugee camps.
“I slept on the floor, in the train stations, it was really horrible,” she said.
The country’s fiercely anti-immigration Prime Minister Viktor Orban later erected razor-wire fences along the southern borders to keep out migrants altogether.
“Then, I thought that people were really rude, my coach was afraid, when I said I was going to go back (to Budapest) again, but now it’s completely different, so I changed my point of view about the people of Hungary, it’s really cool this week,” she said.
“I totally understand the people and their fears, I would have the same fears, but the problem is that people are not trying to get open for it even.
“I’m not saying that the refugees are 100 per cent amazing and angels, all over the world in countries there are good people and bad people, this is how we are also.”
After Rio, which she called “a dream come true”, she says she is “excited and happy” to swim in another major meet, where she also competes in the 200m freestyle discipline.
In Berlin she focuses on swimming and learning German, and hopes one day to fulfil another dream: swimming for Syria.
“I will wait to see what will happen, of course I will never forget also what Germany did for me, so yes I hope that I am going to represent both countries in a good way,” she said.
A film about Mardini’s life is in the works, while she plans to begin writing a book after the world championships.
* Provided by AFP