In a twist of fate, a scrappy street feline has become not only the 1st Mariner Arena mascot but the star of the latest "Show Your Soft Side" campaign ad.
First Mariner general manager Frank Remesch was almost ready to leave work this fall when one of his staff called him out to the parking area -- a cat was under one of the cars.
Remesch, an animal lover who rescues Mastiffs and let hundreds of city shelter animals weather Hurricane Sandy in the arena, flopped onto the concrete and proceeded to look for something furry, as one by one more of his employees came out to watch, help and bring flashlights.
Worried the frightened cat would spring out and run blindly into rush-hour traffic, Remesch had the car pulled into the Arena, shut the doors behind him and continued to search the chassis.
Finally he spotted the cat, who sprang out from his perch above a tire and began running through the arena and slipping on the waxed floor as Remesch and several staff members gave chase.
What they eventually cornered and scooped up was a tiny orange kitten, as big as Remesch's fist -- skinny and filthy, yet still feisty.
After the kitten got shots and an otherwise clean bill of health from the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Remesch couldn't bear to leave him to an uncertain fate, so he welcomed the furball into the 1st Mariner family.
One of the box office managers, an Orioles fan, named the orange one Buck. As he fattened up and grew what Remesch calls "a little Buddha belly," the kitten roamed the arena offices by day and every night, a different staff member took him home. Litter boxes, food and toys came from the arena's rainy day kitty -- pun intended. Affection came free.
"I've never in my life seen a cat that has that much energy. He's just non-stop all damn day," Remesch says. "He's got a little bit of a 'tude. He takes off running, jumps on your desk, knocks off a few things and keeps going."
Now that it's been a few months, Buck has a permanent home with one of the box office managers. So he's got a stable place to spend nights and weekends, but still comes to work every day where, Remesch jokes, "He can see any show he wants for free."
People will soon see Buck on a billboard outside the arena, starring in the latest ad for Baltimore's anti-animal cruelty campaign, "Show Your Soft Side." Buck is in good company, as the campaign's other faces have included Oriole Adam Jones and rock star Tommy Lee.
The copy for the billboard reads: "Dumped at six weeks and left to die. Buck got the last laugh. He now has 174 moms and dads."
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