In 2009, the Wilmington Blue Rocks became the first team to book Team Ghost Riders — better known as Cowboy Monkey Rodeo — at a Minor League ballpark. The thrilling spectacle of a monkey riding a dog herding sheep soon became an industry-wide phenomenon.
In 2016, the Blue Rocks have once again made Cowboy Monkey Rodeo history.
“Dir of Mktg Joe” is more coherently known as Blue Rocks director of marketing Joe Valenti, a longtime Cowboy Monkey Rodeo supporter. Valenti serves as the point man when the rodeo rolls into Wilmington, and in that capacity had gotten to know ringleader Tim Lepard.
“[Lepard] will retire the dogs at a certain age so they can live a dog’s life, not doing the grind,” said Valenti. “Last year he was in town in August. I mentioned to him, that if he was retiring a dog my wife and I would definitely be interested. He said, ‘We’ll look into it.’ But that night at the end of the show, as he was standing at home introducing the dogs and monkeys, unbeknownst to me he called me up there and gave me Shot. I had no idea that it was coming, we hadn’t discussed it or anything. It was crazy…He said when you’re ready, we’ll make the tradeoff.”
This past Saturday Valenti, his wife and young daughter, Rose, met with Lepard in Virginia and officially adopted the 5-year-old Border Collie.
“He was confused and tentative at first, not sure what to think about having a new family and a new home,” said Valenti. “One reason that Tim was ready to retire him is because he’s so docile. Just an affectionate, laid-back kind of dog, who was over doing the chasing rams kind of thing. Tim thought he would be a good fit with the family. So it’s been an adjustment to get his bearings and figure out who we are, but it’s gone really well….It’s cool to see him slide into the family role.”
While Shot will spend the bulk of his time at home, Valenti plans to bring him out to Frawley Stadium on a regular basis.
“He loves people. I do the onfield, hosting, so I can have him come down with me,” said Valenti. “It’ll be cool leading up to the games [with Cowboy Monkey Rodeo], a little teaser, to have the dog here. And I’ll definitely bring him when the monkeys are here, to reunite him.”
Valenti won’t consider adopting a monkey, however.
“The dog is enough. Monkeys are cool, and it’s always fun when they’re around,” he said. “They run around and scare the players. But I’ll stick to the dog.”