Tara the hero cat, who saved a 4-year-old boy from a dog attack in Bakersfield, Calif. and has since become an internet sensation, will toe the rubber and throw out the first pitch at a Bakersfield Blaze game on Tuesday evening.
Surveillance video of the feline springing into action went viral earlier this week and has been viewed over 16 million times since the boy's father, Roger Triantafilo, posted it on Youtube. The cat, which can be seen in the video ramming into and then chasing off a neighbor's dog after it grabbed hold of 4-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo's leg, has since been interviewed (with her owners) on the Today Show and Good Morning America, and was highlighted on TMZ and Inside Edition. Her victory tour will continue at Sam Lynn Ballpark, and the Blaze are hoping her appearance, and the national attention, will boost attendance beyond their 884 per-game average.
"I thought we might get some local play, maybe a cute story on the 6 o'clock news, but no, we're getting more than that," said Blaze assistant general manager of operations Philip Guiry, who fielded a call from a TMZ reporter yesterday. "I'm glad we made TMZ for a funny cat and not something else."
The team originally planned to have Jeremy throw out the first pitch with Tara by his side. But as the attention surrounding the event has grown, so has Bakersfield's plans.
"Now we have three days to figure out how to make a cat throw out a first pitch," Guiry said.
"We have a trick up our sleeve," assistant GM of marketing Dan Besbris said. "Let's just say the cat will be throwing out a first pitch."
The Blaze are encouraging animal lovers to attend by offering half-price tickets to anyone who brings unused animal toys or unopened animal food that will be donated to local charities.
Of course, felines and large crowds don't always mix. And while the Blaze will do their best to pull of the promotion without a hitch, a little blooper-reel attention may not be so bad either.
"If everything goes off perfectly, that's great," Guiry said. "But if everything fails miserably, that's even better. We'll just play the Benny Hill yakety sax music behind it and it will be perfect."