Pets & Animals

Im-paws-ibly cute: Kittens to play baseball on TV in 'Paw Star Game'

It’s a well-known fact among cat lovers: kittens instinctively take batting to a whole new level.

If you’d like proof, tune in to the Hallmark Channel on Sunday to watch the first-ever “Paw Star Game,” where tiny kittens will bat tiny baseballs around a tiny baseball diamond with their tiny paws.

“This will be the Midsummer Classic of kittens!” said Bill Abbott, president and chief executive officer of Hallmark Channel’s parent company, Crown Media Family Networks. “If people know about baseball, they’ll smile and feel good when they watch this.”

That’s right: the same people who gave non-football fans the “Kitten Bowl” on Super Bowl Sunday are about to serve up more televised catnip just a couple of days before Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. During the “Paw Star Game,” kittens with names like Derek Cheetah, Joe DiMeowgio, Mickey Meowntle and Darryl Pawberry will pitch, pounce and play ball — while also stopping to groom themselves and lounge on bases whenever they feel like it. Older cats will observe the action with cool wisdom from the bullpen.

Marc Lemoine / Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC
"You are MINE, ball."

TV personality and animal advocate Beth Stern will host the show as the New York Yankees’ iconic radio announcer John Sterling and longtime sports analyst and reporter Mary Carillo provide deadpan commentary about the kittens’ maneuvers.

“Paw Prints Fielder is first up to bat as Don Cattingly struts back to the mound,” Sterling says at one point.

“If you're a Bengals’ fan, Don is a cat you want on the hill,” Carillo chimes in. “He’s no stranger to clutch performance.”

Marc Lemoine / Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC
"This is a cat-astrophe!"

While everything about the production is purr-fectly adorable, it also has a serious subtext. Populations of homeless kittens tend to spike each summer and overwhelm animal shelters across the United States. The hope is that “Paw Star Game” might help change that trend. After the last “Kitten Bowl” aired, Abbott said, a number of big-city shelters reported that all their kittens got adopted.

“We had so much success playfully mimicking the Super Bowl, and it did so much good for kittens and animals overall, that we looked for other opportunities like it,” Abbott said. “Shows like these certainly help people see the cuteness and the beauty of these animals.”

Marc Lemoine / Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC
"I double-dog-dare you to take this from me."

In addition to “Kitten Bowl” and “Paw Star Game,” Hallmark Channel airs the American Humane Association’s “Hero Dog Awards” each fall. That show spotlights trustworthy canines who help people in profound ways and sometimes even save lives. And next year during the 2016 Summer Olympics, the network plans to launch “Ultimate Kitten Summer Games” to give animal lovers yet another furry, sports-themed fix.

Marc Lemoine / Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC
"What do you mean we're in the middle of a game?"

TODAY’s Al Roker and other celebrities including Ed Asner, Maria Menounos and Mario Lopez will cheer kittens on during Sunday’s “Paw Star Game,” which airs Sunday at 5 p.m. ET/PT and 4 p.m. Central.

Need a Coffey break? Follow TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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