Sparkee – Baseball’s Hidden Therapeutic Gem?

Earlier this week I wrote about going to Minor League Baseball games and how it provides an affordable and enjoyable form of therapy for me.  Then I started to wonder, when going to therapy, do you need a therapist?

Now, before you say “Duh!” hear me out.

The blog post discussed how watching the game of baseball, live and in person, is therapy in and of itself.  Nine in the field, one at the plate and three umps…are these already my therapists?

Then I thought, don’t we need someone to guide us along? Someone brilliant?  Someone empathetic?

Enter, Sparkee.

For 20 years Sparkee has been one of the most recognizable faces of the Somerset Patriots.  Many would consider him the hardest working mascot of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

But a therapist?

I don’t know.  That may be asking a lot.

So I decided to go online to find out what makes a good therapist.

Here is what I learned.  Listening skills, empathy, social skills and communication are key.  There is no doubt Sparkee is a great listener.  He is empathetic and understanding.  He has awe-inspiring social skills and when he communicates, he does so quietly but effectively.

I thought this was too easy.  So I chose to dig deeper.  Here is what I learned and I’ll let you be the judge.

Me and Sparkee

Putting his exceptional listening skills to work, Sparkee pays close attention to my concerns.

 

To be an effective therapist one must …

… possess a sophisticated set of interpersonal skills.

Well, this is easy.  That is the core of who he is.  You see, friends, with Sparkee, he says it all with his eyes.  One tilt of his head and one long look he can turn any mood we’re in into a good one.  Granted, the sheer size of his 18-inch eyes play an influential part, but that’s part of his charm.

… help you to feel you can trust them.

Trust is important.  I believe an infinite amount of patience and genuine kindness are important components to trust-building techniques   There is more to it of course but it’s a start.  I would contend that anyone who has watched Sparkee at work knows he is one patient pup.  He will interact with an endless stream of kids making sure he doesn’t miss a fist bump, a High-5, a paw shake, a family picture and so much more.

… be committed to developing a consistent and acceptable treatment plan.

How does 70 home games sound?  Even if it rains, we get another chance on another day.  Plus don’t forget playoff games! Now THAT is commitment!

2017_0817_18371200

He is so good.  Just look at those eyes of his.  Engaged. Alert.  Focused.

 

… involves themselves in outside training and education.

“Crack!  It is high…it is far…it issssssssssss …. GONE!” a la John Sterling.

My boy knocks this one deep and over the TD Bank scoreboard!

Over the past 20 years Sparkee has traveled Central New Jersey making hundreds of appearances, meeting thousands of people, visiting schools, participating in fundraisers, educating kids on the detriments of bullying and so much more. That is some impressive stuff.

… be sensitive toward your cultural background.

Sparkee is a dog.  We are human.

That qualifies as differing cultural backgrounds, yes?

So does that mean he understands us humans?

You watched the video I posted above by now, right?  If not scroll up and watch.  I’ll wait.

OK.  Good.  What is Sparkee doing?

He is standing on top of the dugout and motioning for us to clap.

So what do we do?

We clap.

He claps faster.

We clap faster.

He claps louder.

We clap louder.

     (are you noticing a pattern here?)

Then, he uses his paws to pull his jersey forward, motioning to the name across his chest.  It reads Patriots.

What do we do?

Like a bunch of lemmings with hyena vocal chords we yell “PATRIOOOOOOOTS!!!!!!”

Then we do it again.

And again.

Meanwhile he has not uttered a single word.

Wow.  Just, wow.

He has us eating out of the palm of his paw.

Pavlov’s dog?  Pppptttthhhh, please.  Pavlov Schmavolv!

This isn’t a case of Pavlov’s Dog,  We’re “Sparkee’s Humans.”

He has trained US!

So, yeah.  Yeah, I think he can handle different cultures.

Sparkee Prescription-II

Fortunately for all of us, his heart is twice the size of Somerset County and he only uses his powers for good, not evil.  Or, more to the point, he – along with his best friends Slider and General Admission –  creates an environment of hope, inspiration and joy at every game.

So now, I leave it to you.  Would you hire Sparkee as your therapist?

I would.

Actually, I did.

After all, he has already written me a prescription for more live baseball.

If that is how he plans on treating what ails me, I hope I never get better.

*                             **                             **                             *

Below, a brief clip of our session together.

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