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Seven times that players and animals have formed an adorable friendship

Jesus Cruz was impressive in his July 4 start for the Class A Peoria Chiefs, striking out nine in 4 2/3 innings. He was so impressive, in fact, that when he departed in the fifth, a member of the animal kingdom came swooping in to congratulate him:

Bird

While it had a bit of a bumpy ride, the bird turned out to be just fine. "I was happy to see the bird flew away [because] I thought he was hurt," Cruz said after the game through interpreter and teammate Yariel Gonzalez. "When the bird landed, I just picked him up because I like animals, and I took advantage of that."

Cruz and his bird bud are hardly the first interspecies friendship to be forged on the diamond -- below are a few of our favorites from the past few years.

James Paxton, Eagle Handler

Heck, Cruz isn't even the first pitcher to have a bird end up on his head this season. Paxton's new friend was a bit bigger, though:

The Rally Goose

Back in late May, a goose found its way onto the field at Comerica Park, then had some difficulty getting out. Luckily, a veterinarian happened to be sitting nearby, and she and Tigers employees helped it to safety -- and just like that, the #RallyGoose was born.

The fowl has become Detroit's unofficial mascot this year, hanging out in the dugout (in plush form, at least) and inspiring the team to walk-off wins

The Rally Mantis

Billy Burns was just minding his own business in the Royals dugout back in 2016, when all of a sudden he found quite possibly the largest bug in human history parked on his hat:

Bug

Shockingly, Burns did not flee screaming, never to be heard from again. On the contrary: The Rally Mantis became a staple at Kauffman Stadium, from the dugout to the stands.

Zack Cozart gets a donkey

With Cozart having a career year last season, Joey Votto made him a promise: If the shortstop made the NL All-Star Team, Votto would gift him a real live donkey. Cozart took care of his end of the bargain, and sure enough, when the Reds returned to Great American Ball Park after the All-Star break, he had a new friend waiting for him:

Cozart

Protect the ducklings!

Often, when an animal or animals disrupt play by coming on to the field, players will simply try to shoo them away as quickly as possible -- they're in the middle of a game, after all, and there's a lot on their minds. When the animals in question are adorable baby ducklings, however, even the most hardened competitor is willing to wait:

Brett Phillips vs. the possum

You need to be careful, though: Animals aren't always willing to hug it out. Just ask Brewers prospect Brett Phillips, who in 2016 started chasing after a possum that appeared in center field ...

Possum

... only to be greeted rudely:

Possum

Thom Brennaman interviews a bird

OK, Brennaman's not technically a player, but he did take a moment to interview a bird while calling a Reds game last year, and that's good enough for us:

Thom