Professional players of America’s favorite pastime become folk heroes and legends in their own time. Generations of kids have collected baseball cards with images and stats of their idols whose details they can quote from memory. Baseball players represent American masculinity in the eyes of young boys and grown men alike, which may be one reason why the image of a baseball player cuddling up with kitty cat may be startling.
The gender divide when it comes to animals may be imagined or real, but it certainly has its effect in some circles. While many NBA players are undeniably masculine and are proud cat owners, Cam Bedrosian, the right-handed reliever for the LA Angels, felt he had to defend his preference for cats in a USA Today article titled “Angels Reliever Opens up About His Unapologetic Love for Cats.” Cam, whose real name is Steve, confessed to the journalist, “People here have been giving me crap about it, but I really don’t mind. I love cats and I told people many times. That’s my stance on it and it won’t change. I think people are just messing with me about it because most people are dog people. For me, it’s not that weird, but for other people, I guess it is. Most people associate guys liking dogs and girls went liking cats, but I love them. They are my favorites.”
Bedrosian has two cats called Gracie and Bootsy but doesn’t keep them in his California residence because of all the traveling he has to do. Cam was photographed on social media with a feline that had a fuzzy white body and a striped head.
Bedrosian may feel that he is alone when it comes to being a baseball player who has a feline friend, but his enthusiasm for the tribe of the Tiger is shared by Giants third baseman Matt Duffy who has been photographed with a huge furry orange striped cat. Jason Michaels, also known a J-Mike, is another cat fancier and is a former outfielder with a diverse baseball resume. He started with the University of Miami and signed on with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2006, he joined the Cleveland Indians and then pitched for the Boston Red Sox.
Tony LaRussa, an iconic name in baseball, has been photographed on social media holding a fluffy white puppy in one hand and a tabby kitten in the other. LaRussa was a player, manager and chief baseball officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has been a successful manager of the Chicago White Sox, the Oakland Athletics, and the St. Louis Cardinals. He ranks third in major league history for managers behind Connie Mack and John McGraw and was named Manager of the Year in both the major and minor leagues.
There are number baseball players and fans who are proud of their enthusiasm for cats and celebrate it. The minor-league baseball team the Lakewood Blue Claws, which is an affiliate of the Phillies, had a special game the called CATurday, in July 2016. The team made special jerseys covered with cats and fans were encouraged to bring along their felines for only two dollars each. Cats had to be confined on leashes or in crates so that they wouldn’t run off and frolic with other cats and hijack the game. Everyone rose to a chorus of “Take MEOW to the ballgame” before the game began and enjoyed the appearance of Miss Kitty. Black cat cocktails were served and attendees were encouraged to make donations to an animal rescue center.
Cam Bedrosian doesn’t seem to think that many baseball players own cats, but there is one film that featured a cat who effectively owned baseball players. A 1951 film called Rhubarb tells the story of an eccentric millionaire who leaves all of her money to her enormous moody orange tomcat. Among her assets is a baseball team that the cat is going to be in charge of running. The film depicts the absurdity and charm as well as the agony and ecstasy experienced by masculine baseball players whose careers depend on the decisions of a kitty cat. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance in the film, and it is fascinating to see the future Mr. Spock depicting puzzled baseball player who doesn’t think it’s very logical that a cat owns his team.
The actor who played the owner of the team that was obviously based on the Brooklyn Dodgers was named Orangey and was probably the Laurence Olivier of felines. This cat was one of the greatest cat actors of all time and won two Patsy Awards, although Orangey was known to be rather difficult to work with. Its trainer called Orangey the world’s meanest cat, and often had to place dogs in strategic places to keep the thespian feline from making a dramatic exit that wasn’t in the script. However, despite the cat’s artistic temperament, Orangey played many roles and was one of Hollywood’s most sought after animal actors.
Why baseball players shy away from owning cats while basketball players celebrate their felines may be a mystery to some and could be a promising topic for the dissertation by a sports psychologist. However, a number of top baseball players don’t shy away from being seen with cats on social media photos and declare their love for felines. It is certainly easier for a cat to be a spectator and attend a baseball game than it is for cat find his way on the football field or onto a basketball court. Many a former little leaguers may recall cat attending an important game, if only stray lounging just outside of the baseball diamond.
One young man recalls a mother cat that decided to have her litter in a dugout because it provided the most secure shelter she could find. Perhaps the reasons were not merely practical, but the mother cats my just a been a baseball lover who wanted to demonstrate her devotion to the sport and have her progeny adopted by the next Babe Ruth.