LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Greg Galiette with the Louisville Bats stopped by the studio with Tim Lepard and Team Ghost Rider Thursday for a preview of a performance planned after the Bats game.
Team Ghost Rider -- a team of dog-riding monkeys -- has been featured on ESPN. Lepard and his talented, white-faced capuchin monkeys and trained border collies have performed at NFL games and NASCAR events. They were set to perform after the Aug. 9 Bats game at Slugger Field.
"We've known about Team Ghost Rider now for a couple of years, been fascinated with the act," said Galiette. "We're kind of known for some of the unusual things we do at the ballpark so we thought what better way to start closing out the end of year than by bringing probably one of the most entertaining and popular acts that's out there in professional sports."
So how did Tim "Wild Thang" Lepard get into the business of training monkeys to ride dogs? He says he has had a lifelong love for monkeys, thanks in no small part to a very popular children's book.
"It goes back to a childhood with Curious George -- the books, I read the books," Lepard explained. "My mom said I toted the sock monkey around until there was no stuffing in it, and growing up, I was always fascinated with monkeys. All my life I wanted to get just one monkey. And now I have nine -- we have a family of them!"
Lepard says it didn't happen overnight.
"It was one of those things that I worked hard for -- I followed my dream," Lepard said. "And whenever I got to an age where I thought I could handle these monkeys I went and got the first one, and it just took off after that.
"As far as the monkey riding the dog, I was just sitting in the living room one day eating Pop-Tarts and watching the late show, and the monkey kept running over and hitting the dog laying by the TV, and running back and jumping in my lap and getting some popcorn. It kept on, and before the night was over, the monkey was laying over by the dog asleep."
Lepard could see the two were good friends, "so the next day I went outside and put the monkey on the dog and let them ride around the yard on the dog. And I said 'this is pretty cool.'
It takes a very patient dog to let a monkey ride his back.
"These dogs -- they're border collies -- they're awesome dogs," Lepard said. "I've never seen anything like them ... they're very smart dogs."
At crowded venues like Slugger Field, Lepard says he must sometimes rely on hand signals to communicate with the animals.
It turns out there's a secret to getting the monkeys to perform.
"There's been so many times that they've asked us what these monkeys like and how do I train them, and ... Pop-Tarts has been the key," Lepard said. "A lot of people think sugar with these monkeys will make them hyper but it settles them down. And they only like the grape ones or the strawberries."
The Pop-Tarts Lepard brought with him Thursday were unfrosted by the way.
Tickets to the Bats can be purchased in person at Slugger Field, by calling (855) 228-8497, or by visiting http://www.batsbaseball.com.
The Aug. 9 game will close out Dollar Beer Thursdays and the first 2,000 people in the ballpark will receive a free Bats aluminum water bottle. Anyone who donates brings a new children's book to donate to the Toys for Tots Literacy Program will get a free hot dog and soda.
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