Rallying Behind the Squirrel: St. Louis Baseball Fans Embrace a New Mascot

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Dave Kaup / Reuters

A squirrel runs behind Philadelphia Phillies' third baseman Placido Polanco to cause a stop in play during Game 3 of their MLB National League Divisional Series baseball playoffs against the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis.

During the first round the playoffs, when the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Philadelphia Phillies, a squirrel ran across the field at Busch Stadium twice in the same game, even distracting Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt. Then a squirrel showed up at a later away game, when the Cardinals played in Philadelphia.

Ever since then, fans in St. Louis have attached themselves to the creatures. Baseball fans have embraced the squirrel and the Cardinals’ marketing team has turned Wednesday’s game into Rally Squirrel night.

Now that the Cardinals have returned to St. Louis for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against Milwaukee, expect squirrel hysteria. The team will distribute 40,000 rally towels with a squirrel theme for tonight’s game,and you too can bring home your very own stuffed squirrel by forking over $5 at the team store. And, oh, don’t forget your “Got Squirrel” T-shirts.

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Tony La Russa, the normally straight-laced St. Louis manager, got fans and players laughing when he explained that the squirrels were simply searching for utility man Allen Craig’s pet tortoise, Torty.

“As far as the squirrel and the tortoise is concerned, they had this relationship, so I think it first came out there because Craig wasn’t playing, and his boyfriend told him or girlfriend or whatever it was,” La Russa says. “And this squirrel was looking for Craig, ran all over, finally found him.”

Don’t expect the live squirrels to make a repeat field appearance this evening. With the team in Milwaukee for the last few days, stadium staff caught four scampering culprits—but not the squirrel minding the Busch Squirrel’s Twitter account—in humane cages in locations spread across the stadium, meaning the squirrels weren’t in one concentrated location.

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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