A brief conversation with the guy that got the parrots out of the UCF softball stadium
Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.
Earlier this week, something happened late in a softball game that I’ve never, ever seen before.
Bradley and Gardner-Webb were playing an early season contest at UCF. The game was briefly interrupted in the bottom of the 7th inning because a few spectators decided to enter the field of play. But these spectators weren’t fans or protestors. They weren’t even human. They were parrots.
See for yourself:
Parrotts crash softball game in Orlando- 🤗 https://t.co/szcY5FyPwL
— Jim Grimes (@jimgrimes)
Feb 25, 2023
Near the end of the clip, a UCF athletics staffer is shown calmly removing the birds from the stadium.
That man was Robert Sample, the Director of Turf and Grounds at UCF.
Robert is not a wild animal expert. He told me that he studied Turf Management at Michigan State, and that his typical duties center around the proper “maintenance of all the athletic fields on campus.” He hasn’t had any specific training on how to remove wild birds from stadiums. When I asked him if he had any parrot experience, he said that “one of his old roommates had…a cockatiel I think?” but that was about it.
But just about everybody in college sports has to occasionally do things that are way outside their job description. If you work in facilities in Florida, eventually, animals are probably going to be involved.
Sample told me that while he’s never had to deal with anything parrot-related, animal control has been a part of the job. “We’ve had honeybee swarms before, and we did once have to remove some raccoons from the football stadium before a game started. We sometimes have to respond to these situations to help keep the public safe.”
“But never exotic birds. These parrots, of course, aren’t native to Florida. They were someone’s pets.”
So what happened at the game?
The parrots made for compelling television, and compared to bees, raccoons or other possible animal invaders, they didn’t represent a major risk to the human participants. But that doesn’t mean this episode couldn’t have ended badly.
Sample told me he was concerned that the parrots might have gotten tangled in some of the netting behind home plate. That would have been dangerous for the birds, potentially dangerous for anybody who tried to remove the birds…and would have made for a much less heartwarming video clip.
“I just tried to defuse the situation calmly, and get the birds out of the ballpark. Shortly after I recovered the animals, we found their owners about a hundred yards outside the ballpark” he told me.
Crisis averted. A few birds got to catch a little softball. The fans and players got a memorable experience. Folks at home got to watch a funny clip. And even Sample, the type of guy that typically doesn’t get featured on telecasts, got a brief moment in the sun.
“I have to admit, my phone was blowing up for 24 hours after that,” he told me, laughing.
Here’s what else we published this week:
Normally, Extra Points publishes two free newsletters, and two paywalled newsletters each week. But this week, we made everything free. Here’s what else we wrote about, just in case they got buried in your promotions folder:
I interviewed Dr. Kevin Blue, the former AD at UC Davis and current Golf Canada executive, about what he thinks is the biggest problem in college athletics, and what legislative solution he’d recommend to fix it. It probably isn’t the problem you’re thinking of!
I shared an update about what I’ve been hearing on the conference realignment front… specifically how the Ohio Valley Conference may end up adding another D-II school.
I also dug into the ACC TV situation…why Florida State (and other programs) are frustrated, and what could potentially be done about it. This is not the sort of problem, that right now, I believe can be solved by one giant check and a handful of lawyers.
Next week, we’ll go back to the two free/two paid newsletter system. If you enjoy these newsletters, the best way to support Extra Points is with a paid subscription:
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Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch up with you next week.
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