The Dog Catcher
By John T. M. Herres
No one else had a dog on their baseball team, but Bruce was not your average dog.
When he was still a puppy, he would run back and forth as my friend, Eric, and I would play catch. The look in Bruce’s eyes was so funny that Eric and I would end up rolling around on the ground laughing.
The times we would mess up a throw and the ball would get loose, Bruce would have it before we could get there, and we would have to chase him around for five minutes before we could get it back.
As Bruce got bigger, Eric and I had to be a lot more careful, because Bruce was starting to jump high enough to catch the ball before we could get it.
“Just throw it harder and Bruce might think it hurts too much to keep trying to catch it,” Eric told me one day. I did not want to hurt Bruce, but thought he should learn not to get in the way of Eric and me playing catch.
Bruce was not going to give up. He kept following our throws, and still jumped up and got the ball. We started throwing even harder, but Bruce kept on catching them.
When I talked to my Dad about it, he told me he wanted to see, so the next day Eric, Dad and I went out to throw the ball around, and Bruce was still catching them.
After about an hour, Dad told me he had an idea. We went to the park and found a baseball field no one was using.
“Now, Terry,” Dad told me, “I want you to have Bruce sit beside you behind home plate. You get down like you are the catcher, but keep Bruce beside you. Eric, you be the batter and I will pitch.
So, Dad threw some balls that Eric could hit while I sat with Bruce and told him, “NO!” when he tried to get the ball. Then, Dad threw one Eric could not hit, and before I could tell Bruce “No!” or even catch the ball myself, it was in Bruce’s mouth.
Dad got another idea. He put Bruce in place behind home plate and told him to sit, so Bruce sat down. He told Eric to move away, and told me to have Bruce catch the ball, but not to let him into the batter’s box. We did that for about an hour before Dad told Eric to come back to hit.
Bruce sat down before anyone told him, and stayed there until Eric missed another one. The ball was in Bruce’s mouth again, and he ran out to give it back to Dad. Boy, was Bruce a smart guy!
Every weekend, we went to the park to teach Bruce. Before too long, people started coming over to watch Bruce be the catcher. I was able to go to the outfield so Dad didn’t have to chase all the balls that Eric hit.
One time when we got to the park, some other boys were already there, so we sat down to watch. One of the boys had seen Bruce out there and got the other boys to let us all join them.
Their pitcher was a boy named Scott, and he did not like that we were having a dog do the catching. After a couple of throws, I saw Scott getting ready to throw one really hard, but he let go before I could stop him.
It had to be a fast ball pitch because the batter missed, but Bruce jumped up and caught it. I was thinking we would have to take Bruce to the hospital, but he just ran out to Scott and dropped the ball at his feet, then ran back and sat in the catcher’s place.
No one could believe it. Dad told Scott to try throwing another fastball, but to make it as hard as he could throw. Sure enough, Bruce caught it and brought it back. I think that was when Scott started liking Bruce.
As the season for Little League got closer, we guys wanted to make a team so we could play. We also wanted Bruce to be our catcher. He had gotten so good, he would even chase foul balls and run and tag the batter before first base was hit. We soon learned when one of us needed to run to home plate to cover for Bruce.
Dad was looking up all kinds of rules to find out if we could have Bruce as our catcher. He could not find anything that said the players had to be human. Dad took our camera to practice one day and filmed our amazing Bruce in action.
He took that to show the people who ran the league, hoping they would let us keep Bruce as our catcher. The people were most impressed, and agreed to our team.
On the first game, the other coach was so mad that Bruce was playing, he took his team and left. The second game we played and won, with Bruce making a lot of the outs, catching hits they tried to mess us up on.
Each game we played had more and more people in the stands as word got around about Bruce. By our fifth game, even the TV news people were there, and our team had still not lost a game. Bruce was even better than the other team’s catchers.
By the end of the season, we had won every game, and we even got a trophy. Bruce had his picture on the news, in the paper, and the people who ran the park even put up a banner on the wall of the field with Bruce on it!
For our victory party, we got Bruce a very special trophy all his own: a 3-foot-high chew toy with the game ball on top! He loved that!
Bruce made that summer so much fun for almost everyone. Even the coach who had been so mad at that first game had come by to shake all of our hands, and even gave Bruce a scratch behind the ear.
Everyone loved Bruce the Dog Catcher!