Jeff McNeil played a quick game of catch before the Mets played the Marlins at Citi Field Tuesday night. It’s not an unusual activity for him, but this time, McNeil tossed the ball to a brand-new teammate: his puppy, Willow.
McNeil and his wife, Tatiana, brought the dog home after North Shore Animal League America, which is based in Port Washington and is the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, put out a pen of puppies July 26 at Citi Field to help encourage adoptions.
McNeil made social media waves during the event as he FaceTimed Tatiana asking to adopt the dog.
“I met the puppy for the first time and fell in love with her,” McNeil said Tuesday before the game. “I was on the phone with my wife, saying, ‘We need this dog.’ I was begging for it.”
It didn’t take long for Tatiana to agree. The couple met with North Shore Animal League America, and director of communications Kathleen Lynn said they picked up Willow almost as soon as McNeil returned from the Mets’ six-game road trip Sunday.
McNeil also said he told his wife that if they got the dog, he’d hit more home runs. He’s been as good as his word, starting with a three-run shot July 26. Since then, he’s cracked four more homers, including blasts in three straight games from Aug. 3-5.
And it’s not just McNeil’s stats that have been impressive since he found puppy love. Coming into Tuesday, the Mets are 10-1 in the 11 games after the adoption event and are sitting 2 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot.
So, is the new pup also good luck?
McNeil wouldn’t go quite that far, but Willow’s popularity has soared with the Mets’ recent success. The dog, believed to be a mix of Alaskan Malamute, Great Pyrenees and shepherd, already has her own Instagram account, with more than 5,600 followers.
The couple said they opted for Willow because it’s the street where they were married in California.
“I think if she was a boy, maybe Homer or Dinger, but she’s a girl, so we wanted to give her a girl puppy name,” McNeil said. “I think Willow is perfect.”
Of course, there have been a few bumps in the road of puppy parenthood. McNeil admitted that the biggest obstacle has been “getting her to go to the bathroom in the right place,” and said he has to put his shoes and socks away “or she’ll chew on them.”
Still, McNeil couldn’t wipe away his smile and said the chance to adopt a rescue was something that’s meant a lot to him. It’s also given him a pretty good pregame warmup partner.
“It’s been amazing,” McNeil said. “We found the perfect puppy.”