Cheetah pays visit to Cubs at Wrigley Field

Cheetah pays visit to Cubs at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO -- On Tuesday it was a flamingo and two snow leopards. On Wednesday, a cheetah and a Labrador.

The animals are all part of manager Joe Maddon's plan to keep the mood in his clubhouse light as the Cubs compete for the National League's first Wild Card spot. So after Maddon teamed up with the Columbus Zoo on Tuesday to bring in a variety of animals to entertain his players and their families, he opted to continue the fun.

Players took selfies and posed with the cat, named Bibi. Bibi's friend, a white Labrador that helps keep her from being stressed, joined her on the field.

"This time of the year, things tend to get a little bit uptight," said Maddon. "I don't want that at all. There's no reason to be. These little sojourns from normal are good for everybody.

"To deal with animals like that, all the guys, they were totally enthralled by everything. They gathered around, and I'm watching them, and I thought, absolutely, it was the right thing to do."

The visit was also a continuation of Maddon's efforts to raise awareness for animal-related causes, but more important, he wanted to keep his players from worrying about the team's magic number and the standings.

Chicago entered Wednesday 9 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco for the NL's second Wild Card spot and trails Pittsburgh by two games for the first. Either way, the Cubs are close to playing in the postseason for the first time since 2008.

That's why Maddon celebrates with his players after every win, no matter which opponent or which day. It's a similar practice he used as Rays manager in 2008, when he led that team to the World Series.

"Celebrate achievement all the time," he said. "I love the fact that we celebrate every night. It has this bonding effect among the group.

"The word party has taken on a negative connotation in our country these days. It's really bumming me out. There's nothing wrong with having a good party. There's not a thing wrong with it. So if you have an opportunity to have a good party, go out and have one. It's OK to have a good time."

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