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DONKEY BASEBALL

Brookings firefighter Jan Miller swings at a high-flying pitch. (The Pilot/Kurt Madar).
Brookings firefighter Jan Miller swings at a high-flying pitch. (The Pilot/Kurt Madar).

Nine donkeys of various shades and sizes graced the Brookings-Harbor High School football field Sunday afternoon for a fundraiser for Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Brookings and Harbor firefighters, members of the U.S. Coast Guard and both California and Oregon law enforcement spent the afternoon pulling those donkeys around by the nose.

"They're really stubborn," said Pelican Bay State Prison Warden Bob Horel after repeatedly failing to mount his donkey. "They definitely aren't making this easy."

According to Chetco Shrine Club President Dale Baker, the fundraiser was a success.

"We raised around $2,500 for the hospitals," Baker said. "In the past we've done donkey basketball, but I think this will be the format from now on."

The rules of donkey baseball are relatively simple. Everyone in the outfield has a donkey that they can't let go of. This means that fielding a ball requires taking the donkey along. Players other than the pitcher or catcher have to jump on their donkey's back to throw the ball.

If a player lets go of his donkey, or forgets to mount before throwing, the opposing team gets a free base.

After hitting the ball, the batter has to jump on a donkey and ride it around the bases. At the second strike, batters replaced the bat with a barn shovel to ensure they hit the ball.

"The donkeys smelled bad," said Brookings Fire and Rescue volunteer Meagan Kohnert. "They weren't all stubborn. There were some very cooperative donkeys, but there were some that just wanted to eat grass."

The well-behaved donkeys may have been the favorites of the players, but the crowd of more than 400 people spent much of the time laughing uproariously at the problems caused by donkeys more interested in eating grass.

"Its absolutely ridiculous," said Brookings resident Jeremy Green. "I've never seen anything like it."

Green was referring to the spectacle of watching grown men and women strain against their donkey's lead rope trying to reach the base with a ball while the donkey, completely unaffected, calmly chomped away at grass.

The most crowd-pleasing moments were when members of the outfield tried to mount their donkeys to throw the ball.

Players fell off, ended face down over the whithers or, in one case, mounted facing almost backward.

The Coast Guard and law enforcement team ended up winning the match with five runs to the firefighters' four.

The donkeys come from Donkey Sports in Entiat, Wash. Each year the ranch's donkeys play 100 games of donkey basketball, and 23 games of donkey baseball.

Donkey Sports supplies the donkeys and referees whose purpose is to help prod stubborn donkeys to move, ensure the safety of participants and watch for mistreatment of the donkeys.

"We have a promoter who procures the donkeys, takes phone sales, and sells the tickets," said Baker. "We take care of getting the players and field. This has been so successful that we plan on doing it every year."

Currently there are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children nationwide. The hospitals are maintained and operated through Shriner fundraising, and children younger than 18 receive medical care absolutely free of charge, regardless of their race or religion.

"If a family can't afford transportation or housing when taking their children to a Shriner hospital, we will pay for it," Baker said.

The Chetco Shrine Club has been operating in the Brookings area for 35 years.

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