Local News

Tuesday, May 20 2014 10:30 PM

Tara the cat uses charm offensive on Blaze

  1. 1 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    With the swipe of her paw by Roger Triantafilo, Tara the cat throws out the first pitch of the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark Tuesday night in Bakersfield.

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  2. 2 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    With the swipe of her paw by Roger Triantafilo, Tara the cat throws out the first pitch of the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark Tuesday night in Bakersfield.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Roger Triantafilo gets Tara the cat ready to throw out the first pitch of the Blaze baseball game Tuesday night at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield.

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  4. 4 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    RogerTriantafilo gives a thumps up after Tara the cat threw out the first pitch of the Blaze baseball game Tuesday night at Sam Lynn Ballpark.

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  5. 5 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo, and his parents Erica and Roger Triantafilo, are all smiles following Tara the cat's first pitch before the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield Tuesday night.

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  6. 6 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Roger Triantafilo hugs his son Jeremy following Tara the cat's first pitch before the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield Tuesday night.

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  7. 7 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Tara the cat was very calm after throwing out the first pitch of the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark Tuesday night in Bakersfield.

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  8. 8 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Plenty of media gathered before the start of the Blaze baseball game to see Tara the cat throw out the first pitch Tuesday night at Sam Lynn Ballpark.

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  9. 9 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Tara the cat relaxes after throwing out the first pitch of the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark Tuesday night in Bakersfield.

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  10. 10 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Courtney Clerico, of The Cat People, shows off the autographed poster signed by fans of Tara the cat, who threw out the first pitch of the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark Tuesday night.

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  11. 11 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Bakersfield Blaze's mascot, Heater, enjoyed the attention before Tuesday night's game at Sam Lynn Ballpark. Tara the cat was the special guest, and threw out the first pitch.

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  12. 12 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Erica Triantafilo talks to media prior to Tara the Cat's throwing out of the first pitch Tuesday night at Sam Lynn Ballpark.

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  13. 13 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo talks to media prior to Tara the cat's first pitch before the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield Tuesday night.

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  14. 14 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Father Emmanuel Maldonado and daughter Kylie, 9, wait for the start of Tuesday night's Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark.

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  15. 15 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    There were plenty of media ready for Tara the cat's first pitch before the Blaze baseball game Tuesday night at Sam Lynn Ballpark.

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  16. 16 of 16

    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    Four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo gets the chance to throw out the first pitch before the Blaze baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield Tuesday night.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

She's known for delivering body-blocks and roundhouse kicks, but Tara, the hero- ninja-wonder-cat, turned on her charm offensive to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Bakersfield Blaze Tuesday against the Lancaster JetHawks.

Sort of.

Tara -- who one week ago saved her family's eldest boy, 4-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo, from being further bitten and dragged away by a neighbor's dog -- delivered the evening's second ceremonial first pitch.

Jeremy, who needed 10 stitches to close wounds in his left calf after the May 13 incident, threw out the game's actual ceremonial first pitch, from a kid-friendly plate distance of just a few feet.

The Blaze promptly answered the question everyone's been wondering, including members of The Condors' staff -- how can a cat throw a baseball? -- with a complex, semi-secret contraption involving a length of fishing line and a pulley or two.

Trouble was, it failed -- before a battery of media representing outlets from Russia to Brazil to Japan -- and stranded the baseball just a few feet from the cat's paw.

Blaze staffers quickly handed Tara's "dad," Roger Triantafilo, an untethered ball which he hurled to pitcher Ben Lively, who was sitting in as catcher.

"Best-laid plans. Gotta try, but that's all right," said Dan Besbris, the Blaze's assistant general manager in charge of media and marketing. "We got the cat. The cat seemed to be just fine, which is great."

This was the evening's other big question: How do you take a cat out to the old ballgame?

Followed by wife Erica with Jeremy by the hand, Triantafilo simply strode to the mound with Tara draped over his left arm. Tara wore a tiny coat with skulls and crossbones.

"She did everything I thought she would. She stayed calm throughout," Triantafilo said, answering questions in the media scrum apres-pitch for a Los Angeles-based reporter from Globo Network of Brazil. "We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her and we are lucky our son was able to throw the first pitch because of our cat, so thank you, Tara."

The script-flip story -- hard-charging former stray cat saves boy from dog -- has captivated media from Taiwan to Ireland and Australia to Ohio.

"Cat story? First time. It's everywhere, worldwide," said Valerly Lipkin, an L.A.-based cameraman for REN TV, one of Russia's largest private federal TV channels.

"The cat saved the boy, and I'm interested in the cat's first pitch," said Hideo Yoshiro, L.A. photographer for Tokyo Chunichi Sports network.

Fans felt the same way.

"It's awesome, having a local celebrity in our midst," joked Jerrold Yeager of Bakersfield, who sat with friends in left field.

"I'd like to see it throw a curveball, I'll tell you," joked David Tovar of McFarland.

Word of Tara's pitch brought Emmanuel Maldonado and daughter Kylie, 9, to their first Blaze game in about three years.

"Just to get out and see the cat, I thought would be interesting," Maldonado said.

"I want to see the cat," said Kylie, impatient at waiting for the pet to appear.

Tara can afford to make a bit of an entrance. One week later, the cat's popularity is such that she now has her own official website, taratheherocat.com, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"We just really want to teach people what we've learned from this experience. We just want them to know, wherever they are in life, they can achieve greatness," said Erica Triantafilo.

The family has hired a company to manage the video, in an effort to control its future exposure. Any profit will go into a college fund for Jeremy.

As for the Blaze, while the game hadn't sold out, it generated a buzz that reminded Besbris of the halcyon days of 2012, when fleet-footed Billy Hamilton stole 104 bases in 82 games -- only more so.

"Even when we had Billy Hamilton -- ," Besbris started to say.

Attention "was L.A.-based," said Philip Guiry, the team's assistant general manager in charge of operations.

Even the JetHawks were impressed.

"Most cats -- I don't like cats, but I respect that cat," said JetHawks pitcher Lance McCullers.

"That cat saved a life," said JetHawks pitcher Josh Hader.

 

 

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