Minor League Baseball Gives Us The Corgi Races We Need
Before the West Michigan Whitecaps faced the Lansing Lugnuts, 38 short, wiggly, well-intentioned, generally dopey dogs faced off in a series of races. Thank goodness.
Photo by Emily Jones
The world and its problems can seem unknowably vast, and I might as well tell you that there is nothing in this blog post that is going to do much to help make that any easier to comprehend, or bear. But there is some promise, or at least some reason for hope, inherent in the simple largeness of our world. So much of what we can see is blaring black smoke and appears hopelessly and irretrievably aflame. But there is the honest and restorative possibility of things other than that, if only because the world continues out of our eyesight and over the horizon. What we see is not all there is, or all that could be.
Here is an example: while I watched two terrible Major League teams ache their way through a hungover blooperfest of a game on Sunday afternoon, the Midwest League's West Michigan Whitecaps were hosting the first West Michigan Whitecaps Corgi Race Championship at Fifth Third Ballpark before their game against the Lansing Lugnuts. Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, the radio voice of the Lansing Lugnuts, put video proof—that another world is possible, and also that this was really happening—on Twitter that afternoon.
This seemed important on its own, in a number of ways; the mystery of it deepened when Goldberg-Strassler clarified that this was not a one-off, but just one heat in the day's broader attempt "to determine a true Corgi racing champion." If you have watched the video that Goldberg-Strassler shot, you see the challenges inherent in this.
The most obvious of these involves the participants themselves. Corgis are graceful and remarkable creatures, to be sure, but they are distractible and goofy in all the ways a dog should be, and they are, by dint of their natural tendencies toward chunk and floof, not really built for speed. It could also be pointed out that few world-class athletes come so close to having their bellies touch the ground when at rest, or naturally look like they're wearing weird fluffy pantaloons.
But again: you have reviewed the video, and so have noticed that the biggest shortcoming that Corgis have, as racers, is also the thing that makes them among the world's great animals. They're Corgis. One of the participants in the heat above bails on the whole thing about a third of the way through, and another ends it by running in circles for reasons known only to itself. Even the championship race, which came after a series of heats had winnowed the opening field down to a final six, involves one of the racers pulling up well early, presumably because he or she smelled something extremely interesting in foul territory.
Of course, with events like this, the journey is more important than the destination. The winning Corgi, Baymax, is pictured above with the trophy that the Whitecaps commissioned for the event. It's more than two feet tall, which appears to give it a significant edge over Baymax. It was, Whitecaps Promotions Manager Matt Hoffman told me, the most significant expenditure of the day, alongside a $200 gift card to "a doggy boutique in Grand Rapids" which we can only hope Baymax has already blown on upscale chew toys.
The thirstiness of minor league teams is a fact of life, but promotions like Corgi Racing Night exist in a different universe than those promo nights in which teams dress their players up like burritos or Jar-Jar Binks. Hoffman's initial task was finding a new twist on the team's "dog day" and, inspired by his girlfriend's love of Corgis and the obvious merits of the idea—"For the cuteness factor," he told VICE Sports, "it had to be corgis"—he settled on the idea of pregame Corgi races. The team's six-person marketing team mocked up a racetrack and set out to promote the event on social media, where it proved exactly as popular as it should have.
"It blew up!" Hoffman said. "I received a phone call from the President of the Michigan Corgi Club and she had questions. She relayed the info to the members of the club and that helped promote." The field expanded to 38 Corgis in all, running in heats of six or seven. The team's expenditures were low. "Regarding a minor league budget, I like to say anything is possible if you're financially smart," Hoffman said. "We only had to purchase snow fence, stakes, and race lanes for the race itself" in addition to the trophy and the gift card. The Corgis and their owners did the rest.
"Being on the field with the corgis and the owners was incredible," Hoffman said. "The Lansing players were in the dugout watching the entire thing and the Whitecaps players were all huddled around watching it as well. The Corgis and the owners were beyond excited." Hoffman says he hopes to have 80 Corgis in the event next year. In this world of limitless possibilities, good and bad, there seems no reason to stop there.