Baseball produces more unique moments than any other sport. Whether it is seven hits in a game, the ball disappearing into the catcher’s equipment, or one of the premier athletes in the history of all sports running up a wall – baseball delivers the moments that have fans yelling “I can’t believe what I just saw!” at their monitors. There are many events that may have commonplace during baseball’s infancy of the late 1800s that become truly remarkable when they occur in 2016: two announcers, a sheep and the Nookie Monster running around the outfield of the State College-Batavia game is one of those events.
The weird, wild, wonderful world of minor league baseball provides fans with “I can’t believe what I just saw!” moments on a regular basis. SoSH Baseball’s minor league maven Brandon Magee has to constantly say things like “no, that actually happened” or “it really is spelled that way” to the editorial staff. Sometimes the reasons to notice minor league baseball are marketing-related, and so is this bizarre scene has a marketing element to it: but only tangentially.
The State College Spikes employ multiple mascots: a dog named Bob who retrieves balls between innings, a deer-like cat-thing named Ike the Spike that roams the concourses taking pictures with children, and the Nookie Monster. Yes – the Nookie Monster. And it “lives” here:
The Nookie Monster comes out of the NittanyBank Nook – a hole in the left-centerfield fence. Apparently, he emerges out from the nook – the hole in the wall where he apparently lives – and helps entertain fans between innings. So far, this is pretty standard minor league fare: lots of kid-friendly and spectator-friendly distractions between innings and around the park.
Here’s where things get weird:
I know. There is a lot to process in this video. Let’s break it down together: In the top of the 6th inning, with State College leading 6-3, Elian Rodriguez steps to the plate with a runner already at third base. But there’s a problem. There’s a sheep in the outfield. The director of the broadcast is a little slow to find the animal roaming around the outfield grass. But the announcers are all over it – so too are the runner at third and the third base coach, both of whom look way too calm about this.
When we do finally cut to the frightened animal all alone in deep center field, there is no hint of how it got on the field:
But as described by our play-by-play team, the sheep has actually emerged from the Nookie Monster’s lair – I mean hole-in-the-wall. Amid the announcers being distracted by the prospect of someone (Marrero!?) off-camera taking pictures of the sheep traversing the outfield grass, they note that the Nookie Monster has apparently come out onto the field as well to assist in capturing of the sheep. Or goat. Or whatever farm animal is roaming the outfield.
The more you watch the video – and I have now watched it a great many times – the more the little details emerge. For example, play-by-play guy (Joe Putnam or Steve Jones) has more than a little of Hank Azaria’s Brockmire announcer-character, nailing the cadence of “old-timey baseball” and adding to the surreal scene playing out between center and right field. Meanwhile, his partner should win a local Emmy for taking us on an emotional journey with the farm animal in the outfield. I truly feel his confusion, and bemusement, as he shouts “sheep? goat?”
In the end, the animal is literally dragged from the field by the groundscrew and led behind the fence – presumably, back to the Nookie Monster’s lair. But that just raises some very disturbing questions: why does the Nookie Monster need a live goat? Or a sheep? Or whatever kind of farm animal in its home behind the outfield fence? Just to be clear, this is the Nookie Monster:
That’s a dude in a suit. So I ask again – why’s a dude in a suit keeping sheep (goats?) in the outfield? Why can the sheep use the same door as the Nookie Monster – and, I would guess, Bob the dog? Just what is going on beyond the wall in State College?
Minor league baseball creates some moments that are truly unforgettable. And whether or not this was the first time a sheep (goat?) has invaded the outfield mid-game, it is the first time I’ve seen that happen. Maybe it happened back when Abner Doubleday was young, but that it happened in 2016 is a credit to the marketing and mascots of minor league baseball.