Maddon turns Wrigley Field into a zoo

Maddon turns Wrigley Field into a zoo

CHICAGO -- Stop me if you've heard this one before: A flamingo and a penguin walk into a ballpark, then spend time with Major League players.

It's not the start to a bad joke, it's a Tuesday with Cubs manager Joe Maddon at Wrigley Field.

Before the game against the Brewers, with his team in the middle of a playoff race and on the verge of making the postseason for the first time since 2008, Maddon, with help from the Columbus Zoo and Shedd Aquarium, brought in the animals in an effort to lighten his clubhouse.

But it didn't stop at the flamingo and penguin. Maddon also brought in an armadillo, a palm civet (similar to a mongoose), a sloth and two snow leopard cubs. Players and their families had the chance to take pictures and interact with the animals.

"It just came together perfectly on this particular day," Maddon said. "It's three o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon, what else would you rather do?"

Added outfielder Austin Jackson: "That was unusual. That's not really something you really see too often at a baseball field, but it was pretty cool. It kind of gets your mind off baseball for the time being."

Unusual for the players, but not the animals, which often make the rounds with zookeeper Jack Hanna, the director of the Columbus Zoo.

The event was anything but spur-of-the-moment. Reliever Travis Wood, an avid outdoorsman, had bugged Maddon to bring animals into the clubhouse, so Maddon made the arrangements.

This wasn't the first time Maddon brought animals into his clubhouse. When he managed Tampa Bay, he arranged for a visit from a python and a penguin.

But it's the flamingo Maddon was enamored with on Tuesday. Named Warren, the flamingo made a visit to the crowded media room with Maddon.

"I'm a big pink flamingo fan," Maddon said. "Back in California we had two. I'd love to take Warren home and have him co-exist with [my dogs] Winston and Clementine, if that were possible. I think they're one of the coolest things out there. My goal in life is to own a bar named The Pink Flamingo. That's when I know I will have made it."

The visit also served to raise awareness for the conservation of animals while letting the families get up close and personal.

"You get to hold this magnificent creature out there, and all the times you'd be watching TV or reading about it in newspapers, but when you have a connection, all of a sudden, it makes sense," Maddon said.

Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.