Donkey business: Cozart gets sneak preview

Votto fulfills promise, arranges for animals to visit ballpark

Donkey business: Cozart gets sneak preview

CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto learned that buying his friend and Reds teammate, Zack Cozart, a donkey for making the National League All-Star team was the easy part. Getting a donkey ready to be a pet is a whole other ballgame, so to speak.

On Saturday, Votto paid off his bet publicly by arranging to have three donkeys visit Great American Ball Park. One of the donkeys, 12-year-old Amos, was brought onto the field during Reds batting practice.

"This has turned into kind of a public fan thing, which is great," Votto said. "Ultimately, it's a gift between he and I. I think pairing it up with the All-Star Game, and allowing fans to feel some sense of control with naming the donkey, or at least giving them some options, is great. Ultimately on our time, we'll figure it out."

Amos isn't the donkey Cozart will receive as his new family pet. His is 5 months old and currently in training at Honey Hill Farms in Pendleton County, Ky., which also raised Amos -- who is trained to be in front of lots of people and get attention.

"Zack feels a sense of responsibility to not bring a wild donkey that could hurt somebody or go rogue," Votto said. "Next thing you know, we've got a donkey in center field."

When Cozart met Amos, it was love at first sight.

"I'm way more excited after seeing ol' Amos over there," Cozart said. "He'll live to be 25-30 years old. This is a lifetime companion here."

Zack Cozart with 12-year-old Amos and trainers from Honey Hill Farms in Kentucky.Mark Sheldon

As Cozart pet Amos, he asked the handlers for some tips to care for donkeys.

"I asked them if they could try to make it a house donkey so I could train it to go to the door [to use the bathroom], but I don't think that's going to fly," Cozart said. "They said they are very loyal. They're very protective of the family, which is a good thing, so we'll see. I need to pick their brains a little more about exactly what they eat all the time. There's a lot of questions I have."

The new donkey will need a name. From now through July 31, fans can email their suggestions to donkey@reds.com. Cozart will review all the suggestions and pick a winner in August.

Cozart and his wife, Chelsea, have a 2-year-old son named Cooper. The family also has two dogs and live in Nashville during the offseason. A longtime fan of donkeys, Cozart took Cooper to see donkeys at a place near the team's Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. He discussed donkeys and his knowledge of them so often in the clubhouse that Votto eventually made a promise after the shortstop got off to a hot start this season.

Votto dresses as a donkey

If Cozart made the All-Star team, Votto told him he would buy him a donkey. A made-for-media sensation was soon born and Cincinnati got donkey fever. Votto even dressed as a donkey on MLB Network behind Cozart to help improve his vote totals. Cozart was elected by the fans as the starter on the NL squad.

At some point later this season, or in the offseason, Cozart will receive his actual donkey.

"You just can't dump it in the middle of nowhere and the donkey gets sick. He's got to watch over it," Votto said. "He does feel a sense of responsibility to it, and I do too. I don't want to just dump a gift on him or get owed on him and him saying, 'What the heck am I going to do with this?'

"We want to make sure the donkey recognizes that Zack is his No. 1 guy. It's a donkey he's going to have for the rest of his life. We can't rush that. We have to set them both up for success, long-term."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.