The Dogs of Summer.

In the world of Minor League Baseball, 2008 may have been the year of the dog, according to Benjamin Hill of MiLB. On January 18 of that year, the Greensboro Grasshoppers announced that the collar of Miss Babe Ruth, the club’s popular Black Labrador, had sold for $290 in a charity auction. Miss Babe Ruth was billed as the youngest bat dog in the history of the Minor Leagues when she made her on-field debut in Greensboro in 2006.

Also on January 18, 2008, Maverick the Wonder Dog became part of the Brooklyn Cyclones front office. And just three days later, the Trenton Thunder announced that Chase, their popular Golden Retriever, had fathered a litter of puppies.

Chase was actually acquired at the end of the Thunder’s 2002 season. Over the years, he became a disc-chasing community icon. Fans lined up at every game to obtain his paw-tograph. Even Derek Jeter was among Chase’s long list of close and personal friends. Chase retired in 2013, and soon after passed away. His son, Home Run took over as the lone bat dog for the Trenton Thunder. He even brings water out to the umpires during games. Check out the Chase Video tribute. What a ham.

Major League Baseball is catching up. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Brewers adopted Hank, a stray dog found near the MLB team’s Phoenix spring training facility. He was hungry and scared, and appeared to have been hit by a car.

Healed and healthy, Hank now travels with the team. So, now we’re wondering if he’ll be with the team as they meet up to play the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on July 28, 29 and 30. We would love Hank to meet Bailey, a Florida Ambassadog for shelter dogs everywhere.  Her favorite team is the Tampa Bay Rays, and she loves Joe Maddon (but, has yet to meet him). She even channels Maddon by wearing her own Ray Ban glasses while listening to #Bruce Springsteen. In fact, Glory Days might be Bailey’s favorite song.

Just a few years ago, Bailey was 12 hours from being euthanized when a volunteer from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay discovered her, sitting in the back of a crate. She was shivering, scared and had painful tight mats all over her fur. Bailey’s story is like thousands of other dogs waiting to be adopted. Luckily, today she lives a good life, traveling everywhere with her humans, including to Tropicana Field during the Bark in the Ball Park Dog Day. She has also been the Doggie Dining Diva for THE NEW BARKER, contributing as a “restaurant reviewer.” (#Laura Reily and #Jeff Houck, watch your backs…).

We know how supportive the Rays have been to local rescue organizations such as Pet Pal Animal Shelter. Could a meet up on the pitcher’s mound between Bailey and Hank occur during the Rays vs Brewers game to show a unified support for shelter dogs everywhere? Stay tuned. THE NEW BARKER plans to lobby for it, and we’ll need our fans’ voices and votes to make it work. Please visit the Event page at THE NEW BARKER on Facebook. Simply cast your vote for either Bailey or Hank by writing a comment as to why you think one or the other (or even both) should step up to the pitcher’s mound on July 30 to throw (or goober) the first pitch. Then share the page to your family and friends. It’s all in good fun to help bring more awareness to the Adopt Don’t Shop philosophy.

Chase, the official bat dog for the Trenton Thunder.
Chase, the official bat dog for the Trenton Thunder.
Miss Babe Ruth made her debut with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2006.
Miss Babe Ruth made her debut with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays fan, Bailey and her Joe Maddon Ray Bans.
Tampa Bay Rays fan, Bailey and her Joe Maddon Ray Bans.
Hank, mascot for MLB's Milwaukee Brewers, running the bases.
Hank, mascot for MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, running the bases.
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Ice Cream Is The Answer. (Who Cares What The Question Is).

A scoop of Toasted Coconut and a scoop of Valrhona Chocolate.
A scoop of Toasted Coconut and a scoop of Valrhona Chocolate.

Have you ever been to an ice cream tasting? Ulele presented a delicious experience for the palate as well as the eyes to a lucky few of us last week in Tampa. An official opening date for this fabulous new restaurant has not yet been announced. When it does open, look out, foodies. All details point to success for this newest Gonzmart family project.

Located in the heart of Tampa Heights with a wonderful view of the Hillsborough River, the restaurant (and brewery) will focus on all things local, including fresh fruits, veggies, seafood and “other proteins” from Florida. Richard Gonzmart and his head brewmaster Tim Shackton are even developing a specially-crafted beer to be named after Richard’s German Shepherd Dog, Rusty. And, in keeping with all things sustainable, they are contemplating the creation of dog treats from the spent brewing grains. Is there a Ulele dog treat tasting event in the very near future? Be sure to stay connected to THE NEW BARKER for details.

But, let’s get back to the important subject at hand – the ice cream tasting. American author Ernestine Ulmer is best known for her quote, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” And that’s just exactly what we did last Wednesday at Ulele. Imagine the smooth, creamy, cold and refreshing scoops of six (yes, six) different flavors of ice cream, served up in a half coconut shell. Turns out Mr. Shackton’s other passion is making homemade ice cream. Lucky for all of the taste testers, he did not disappoint. Valrhona Chocolate. Naviera Espresso Swirl. Ugandan Vanilla Bean. Florida Mango. Florida Wildflower Honey. And my personal favorite – Toasted Coconut – transported me to another time.

Savoring each spoonful, with my eyes closed, I saw a little girl visiting grandparents in Puerto Rico with her mother. Details and presentation are just as important as the food itself to fulfill a unique experience. So, the delicious memory of a street vendor handing me a half coconut shell filled with creamy coconut ice cream on that sunny day so many years ago, was perfectly recreated last Wednesday evening at Ulele. It is no coincidence that Richard Gonzmart’s philosophy for his new venture is to honor past generations while creating memories for the next generation.

We were each given a form to rate the ice cream. And, oh my goodness, that was tough. But, hey that’s the price a hardworking ice cream taster must pay in order to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s creativity in the kitchen. Understandably, I did not require dinner that evening. Which now reminds me of an Erma Bombeck quote, “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Looking out onto the Hillsborough River from inside Ulele.
Looking out onto the Hillsborough River from inside Ulele.
Arrowheads that Richard Gonzmart has been collecting over the years, have been infused into the bar tops.
Arrowheads that Richard Gonzmart has been collecting over the years, have been infused into the bar tops.
Richard Gonzmart giving the taste testers a little background on the inspiration of Ulele.
Richard Gonzmart giving the taste testers a little background on the inspiration of Ulele.