'We all love dogs': Central Missouri softball, baseball dog coaches are a hit


As the Central Missouri Jennies softball team took headshots during media day, assistant coach Jeremy Eliert had a special guest in his office — his dog, Bhara Eliert. His goal was to find a way to get her involved in the media day activities.

He dug into the team storage closet and found an old uniform to put on Bhara. The team photographer, Brinkley Beever, saw it as the perfect moment to capture.

Eliert wanted only a regular photo of Bhara to post on social media, but Beever thought it could be a fun way to gain traction for their team website. She added Bhara to the coaches page, and did the same for head coach Susan Anderson’s dog, Rookie Anderson.

Eliert and Anderson credit the Central Missouri Mules baseball team for starting the trend with their own canine coach, Lebowski Backhaus, the dog of assistant coach Alex Backhaus.

“We were like, ‘Baseball’s got it, we’ve got dogs, we can do that too,'” Anderson told ESPN.


THE JENNIES AREN’T the only softball team with a canine coach. The Arkansas Tech Golden Suns have a “Mr. Wilson” on staff as an “emotional support coach.”

In order to complete the dogs’ coaching profiles on the Central Missouri website, each needed a title or position. Beever, who grew up around baseball because of her older brothers, devised sport-appropriate coaching positions for the canines with help from their owners.

“I think I wanted to do it because the dogs are like truly a part of the teams,” Beever said. “A part of the reason I was able to give them the name titles that we did was because we know the dogs. We made them personal to the dogs’ personalities, so it speaks that they’re really a part of the staff so much so that we know them as individual dogs as well.”

Lebowski is known as the “Crane Stadium Head of Security” because he “escorts them on their way” and takes it seriously, according to Backhaus and Beever. He’ll sit outside the facility and chase people around in a playful manner.

Bhara’s coaching position is the “Softball DP (Designated Puppy).” Eliert, a first-base coach for the softball team, will bring Bhara to almost every practice, where she has a prominent role for the team — a ball shagger.

Whenever Eliert says “pick ’em” while the team is hitting, Bhara recognizes it as her cue that she can run on the field.

“Bhara is one of the most well-trained dogs I’ve ever been around,” Anderson said.

Rookie, a German shepherd-black lab mix, is known as the softball team’s “Base Running Coach” because she loves to run the bases — and run them fast. If Rookie sees another animal, such as a cat or a deer, she often goes into “zoomy” mode.

“She loves to run and is super-fast. If she sees anybody around, she is gone,” Anderson said.

The dogs’ presence brings joy and inspiration to the Jennies.

Senior infielder Aubrie McRoberts says the dogs have brought the team closer. The unwavering love and support Rookie and Bhara give the team even makes tough practices easier.

“Both of those dogs really bring us together,” McRoberts told ESPN. “Practice is supposed to challenge you and it’s supposed to be hard because that’s how we get better, so having those dogs around just really brings ease and fun.”

Although the dogs have no playing experience, their athletic ability also influences the players on the field.

“Rookie, she’s so fast and agile and her changing direction is just so impressive that we try to be like that. We try to be fast and go left, you know, around the bases, so our mentality is to be explosive like Rookie,” McRoberts said. “Watching her run is something fun to look at and look forward to at practice.”

When the season isn’t in session, that doesn’t stop Rookie and Bhara from being around the Jennies softball program either.

“We feel the same love and excitement from the dogs like, in-season or offseason, we’re always open arms because we all love dogs,” McRoberts said. “So it’s just really cool to have them there and we get excited, so having them there keeps us at ease, fun and light at the end of the day.”





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