Since moving to San Diego last year, my wife and I have anxiously awaited our first opportunity to introduce our 4-year-old rescue pup, Rocky, to the sights (and smells) of a Major League Baseball game.
When we adopted Rocky from his foster mom in Tennessee back in 2011, his original name was Theo. But as a former Boston Red Sox beat writer living in Quincy, Massachusetts, it seemed a little strange to have a dog named for the team’s general manager at the time, Theo Epstein.
So we renamed him Rocky, for the Tennessee fight song, “Rocky Top,” which I endured on a regular basis in another job as the UConn women’s basketball beat writer before my time on the Red Sox beat.
But, clearly, a dog originally named Theo going to live in Boston during Epstein’s tenure clearly indicated that baseball was going to be his sport of choice. Rocky even gave me a celebratory high-five when the Red Sox recorded the final out of the 2013 World Series.
Now, living in San Diego, Rocky has his first chance this season to see a baseball game in person, so to speak. The Padres, one of the first Major League teams to allow pet dogs into its games, hosts its Bark in the Park promotions, quite appropriately, at Petco Park.
A vast majority of Major League teams have followed suit, with Bark in the Park days common in ballparks across the country. But Petco’s retail rival, Phoenix-based PetSmart, is taking the concept next level in 2016.
In conjunction with the Arizona Diamondbacks, PetSmart is creating two dog-friendly sections of Chase Field, which will become the first Major League ballpark to host Bark in the Park games over an entire season.
Starting April 10 against the Chicago Cubs, the D-backs will allow dogs (and their owners) to enjoy games in the PetSmart Patio and PetSmart Park sections during all 13 Sunday home games.
“We are excited to create a unique dog-friendly area of our ballpark and can think of no better way than to partner with Phoenix-based PetSmart,” said D-backs president and chief executive officer Derrick Hall. “Bark at the Park has always been a popular event at Chase Field, and now we are thrilled to offer fans the opportunity to bring their dogs to our games every Sunday to a new destination designed specifically for them. For many households, a pet is an extension of their families, and the D-backs are excited to partner with PetSmart to provide a family friendly atmosphere for all family members, including our canine friends.”
The new features include exclusive seating areas for dogs and their humans, a grassy area for dogs to play, and a PetSmart adoption area, featuring dogs in search of forever homes.
The PetSmart Patio will be located along the main concourse behind the left-center field wall. A family-friendly zone, the section features multitiered seating that is perfect for dogs and their owners to watch the game safely. The mini seating areas fit four humans and one doggie guest for a total cost of $160.
During the Dog Days of Summer games, dogs can sample such concessions such as dog-friendly ice cream with kibble and treat toppings. The humans get something, too: a Doggie Bag, complete with free items from PetSmart.
Behind PetSmart Patio will be PetSmart Park, an outdoor and indoor dog park that is air conditioned. The outdoor area will feature a baseball diamond and a grassy outfield – perfect for exploring, playing catch with other dogs, or finding the perfect spot to stretch (seventh inning or otherwise) and be … shall we say … relievers.
“We are seeing more and more establishments open up their facilities to pets – whether it’s coffee shops, retail stores, hotels, or restaurants. We at PetSmart truly value the time pet parents spend with their beloved pets, and we want to help enrich the experiences they share together – including a baseball game,” said Eran Cohen, chief customer experience officer for PetSmart. “PetSmart’s home office is based right here in Phoenix, and we are thrilled to partner with the D-backs, our hometown team, on this first-ever ballpark experience with a season-long, dedicated space, so fans can enjoy a Sunday ball game with their best friends or even expand their families through pet adoption.”
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About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).