Helin Jung
April 28, 2010 09:01 PM

Ethel, our rather small Maltese, stood in line outside the New York Mets’ ballpark, Citi Field, next to a giant Old English Sheepdog named Opus, hoping he wouldn’t notice her. Opus had been growling at his neighbors, two bouncy, dolled-up Chihuahuas, and he seemed like he might take Ethel down if she wasn’t careful.

The humans, meanwhile, were just hoping the furballs could keep it together for a few more minutes before the bullpen entrance opened to the newish stadium’s first-ever Bark in the Park, presented by Natural Balance Pet Foods.

“They said about 150 dogs today?” asked a bag checker.

“450,” answered a security guard.

“I should’ve drank another Red Bull,” the bag checker said with a sigh.

450 dogs at a baseball game? It turned out to be more like 208, but that was still enough to break the Guinness Book World Record for most dogs in uniform at a baseball game. And yes, that’s a real record. (If there’s a record for most people being massaged, or most plastic bottles recycled in eight hours – why not?)

Ethel made her way into the bullpen plaza and was, frankly, in shock. Who were these other dogs – wearing jerseys, of all things –prancing around and drinking from communal water bowls as “Who Let the Dogs Out?” played on the speakers above?

Chalupa, a diminutive Chihuahua, seemed to feel the same way –at least her owner thought so.

“Hopefully, we’ll make it five innings,” Eric Kroeger said. “This is a lot for her.”

Later, Chalupa would win the contest for smallest dog in the group, safely tucked into Kroeger’s ample forearm.

Opus, too, was a contest winner, by popular vote, for largest dog in the group.

There were other dogs, though they didn’t all have superlatives to go with their uniforms. There was Vito, a 9-year-old pug (who went once to Dog Day at Shea, the Mets’ old stadium); Mookie, a 3-year-old Shiba Inu (first time); and Murray, a 5-year-old Wheaten Terrier terrified of stairs (also went once to Shea).

As the crowd of people and dogs bumped up against each other, waiting to step out onto the field and walk around the warning track, onetime Met and baseball commentator Ron Darling, himself a proud owner of three dogs (not present), remarked that the event might not be for everybody.

“People without dogs think it’s a little weird that anyone would want to come to a baseball game with a dog,” he said.

But there we all were, and we had indeed broken a world record. As we finished our lap around Citi Field and made our way to our dogs-welcome section, we had a chat with Dodgers legend Steve Garvey. He said that the event, for him, brought together two things that were inherently American: pets and baseball.

We couldn’t help but think that we were seeing a glimpse at a future where dogs would always get to go to baseball games, not just to break world records. But while we were at it, might as well. As Garvey said, “Records are made to be broken – I have a few myself.”

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