How Mark & Jamie Buehrle’s passion for animals drives them to make a difference
By Kelsey Duckett
A perfect game, a no-hitter, and a 2005 World Series ring, are just a few of the accomplishments that make this Major League Baseball player a fan favorite. On the field, he is reliable, works fast, and his team looks to him as a leader. He plays the game he loves with heart, and it shows.
But off the field, it’s his character, and passion for animals, that sets him apart. Whether it is donating his time, paying for a dog’s medical expenses, or speaking out to promote animal rights—White Sox starting pitcher, Mark Buehrle, and his wife Jamie, are committed to the animals.
This baseball power couple has made it their mission to spread the word about the benefits of animal adoption. They recently partnered with Adopt-a-Pet.com, and are featured in a billboard campaign to educate the public on this very subject.
“Dogs don’t have a choice, they don’t have a voice,” Mark explains. “We have a choice where their lives end up, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for our dogs—we want to make the lives of as many dogs as possible, better.”
Throughout the entire United States, Mark is using his fame and recognition in a positive light, and for a cause he and his wife are deeply passionate about.
Sox for Strays
Jamie and Mark helped create a program in Chicago known as “Sox for Strays,” which hosts local animal rescue groups throughout the baseball season at U.S. Cellular Field. The couple records public service announcements introducing dogs who are in need of loving homes, which are played at these special games and on the White Sox website.
The positive response has been overwhelming.
“Nearly every dog featured in one of our PSAs has been adopted,” Jamie says proudly. “It has been an extremely successful program.”
Due to the popularity of integrating animals into an evening of baseball, the Buehrles have taken the idea to MLB executives, with a goal to expand the program to every team, in every stadium.
Don’t Shop, Adopt
“Let ‘em Steal Home. Adopt a Pet,” reads the billboard with the Buehrles’ names underneath the headline, just to the right of a picture with three of their four dogs.
Adopt-a-Pet.com approached Mark last year with the goal of getting athletes involved, and he jumped at the chance.
“This is a website where all different rescues can post their dogs, and it’s very user-friendly,” Jamie says.
“We’d like to get teams involved in every city,” Mark adds. “I often ask fellow athletes to pose with an animal and say, ‘Adopt a pet.’ It’s small things like this that can go a long way in saving the life of a dog.”
Mark and Jamie have been very outspoken against those who abuse, neglect, or abandon animals. Their passion led to controversial comments about former Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback, and last year’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year for the Philadelphia Eagles, Michael Vick.
“We spoke out in anger, and to some people it came across badly, while others were happy,” Mark says. “Recently, Michael Vick has come out against dog fighting, and although I don’t take anything I said back, I understand that he is out there trying to fix the situation.”
On the flipside, one of Mark’s favorite hobbies is hunting, and people have questioned his choice to participate in an activity that kills animals. Mark and Jamie make their position very clear—hunting is a sport.
“Hunting is legal, it is a sport, there are stores for hunting,” he explains.
Mark is an animal lover and a hunter, and does not see the two as mutually exclusive. “My family is a hunting family, I was raised a hunter. I do see where people are coming from, but I buy my tags just like everyone else and I go out and participate in a sport that I love,” Mark says.
A Full House
Mark and Jamie have no shortage of activity going on at home, with two children and four dogs. They have a son, Braden, and a daughter, Brooklyn. And then there are the dogs: Diesel, Drake, Duke, and Slater, who was rescued only a few months ago.
The Buehrles admit that having a multi-dog household with two toddlers is a challenge. Luckily, however, the kids and dogs get on well.
“Our kids absolutely love dogs,” Jamie says, smiling. “They actually think they should go up and meet every dog they see.”
Mark’s dogs are like his kids, and he loves that they are just as excited to see him when returning home from a long road stint as they are when he runs to the store for a half hour, or just takes out the garbage.
“When I get home everyone is running towards me and is so excited to see me,” he says. “They all want to jump in bed and cuddle with us, it’s amazing. I can’t believe I went 26 years without having a dog, they are our best friends.”
Jamie has thought long and hard about running a rescue, but she fears her heart and emotions would want to take in more dogs than they could handle.
“I’d be that person that gets in over my head,” she admits. “I can’t say no.”
When Mark retires from baseball, Jamie shares their wish to purchase property for a rescue sanctuary for Hope Animal Rescue, a group based in Hope Animal Rescue is located in Alton, Ill., that they have been volunteering with for over five years. The goal is to plan and fund the project while Mark is still playing, and spend their time volunteering when he is retired.
Jamie doesn’t want Mark’s legacy to be only about baseball, or his love and passion for animals. She wants it to be about who he is as a person, and his characte both on and off the field.
“The thing that I hear from every person, from every team, is that he is the most genuine guy you’ll ever meet, and with Mark, what you see is what you get,” she says. “He is an amazing athlete, but I also want people to remember the genuine good guy that he is.”
The Buehrles’ desire is to draw attention to the problem of animal abuse, and realized quickly that using Mark’s fame on the diamond helps them do just that.
“We are aware that people get involved because they see Mark or someone else on the team helping animals, and I think that is amazing,” Jamie acknowledges.
“We want to stop the abuse,” she continues. “If you don’t want an animal, don’t get one, but please don’t disrespect or abuse them. They have a heart and soul and they are living beings.”
Mark feels strongly about promoting adoption, and wants people to explore all options before purchasing a dog at a store or breeder.
“There are so many helpless dogs out there that need to be saved and need a loving home,” Mark says. “I want people to get out there and adopt. Let’s take care of these dogs and give them homes, and the love and respect they deserve.”
To help the Buerhles’ and their cause, visit AdoptAPet.com or HopeResuces.com.