It's an all-too-common story playing out in the press right now: Baseball team finds stray cat that coincides with game-winning hit, team seeks to keep cat but initially loses it, cat is taken by animal shelter, team and shelter fight over cat, team loses cat. Such is the saga in St. Louis, where the Cardinals and a local animal shelter are engaged in a custody battle over a small kitten that ran onto the field at Busch Stadium during a game on Aug. 10.
Dubbed Rally Cat due to its presence immediately ahead of a go-ahead grand slam by Yadier Molina, the cat seemed like it was bound to become a big part of the team's stretch run. But after a squabble with the St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach, it looks like Rally Cat won't be joining the Cardinals after all. Via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The cat nonprofit claims the Cardinals were prioritizing "commercial interests" over the well-being of the cat.
"Cat people are different human beings than the rest of us," said Al Watkins, legal counsel for the nonprofit and Rally Cat—yes, the cat has a lawyer. "They take very seriously that the best interest of the cat is being prioritized and it became clear that the Cardinals were more interested in exploiting the cat for commercial interests."
For the Cardinals' part, the organization disagrees with the nonprofit's characterization, but doesn't "want to be engaged in a cat fight," said Cardinals vice president of communications Ron Watermon in an email.
(Nice cat pun, Ron.)
The Cardinals had initially hoped to bring Rally Cat back as a clubhouse pet and had even scheduled a Rally Cat day on Sept. 10. But Feral Cat Outreach, which caught Rally Cat after it escaped from the game, says it wasn't consulted as to those plans, sparking a war of words between the team and shelter—including a broadside at Watermon, who was called a bully in a social media post for assuming that the cat would simply be given back to the Cardinals. "It seems inconsistent with 'The Cardinals Way' to make such false statements," read part of a Feral Cat Outreach Facebook post on the matter.
Negotiations between the two parties went nowhere; Watkins told the Riverfront Times that a call with team president Bill DeWitt III had been "troubling." "Much like any custody battle for children the world over, what's important here is what's in the best interests of the health and welfare of the cat," an apparently serious Watkins added.
With Rally Cat not returning to the Cardinals, the Feral Cat Outreach is now looking to find a new home for it, with anyone interested in adopting it encouraged to reach out. That offer presumably doesn't apply to Molina or any of the Cardinals, though.