About 100 spectators spilled onto a baseball field in Campbell County on Tuesday morning, straddling the first and third baselines, while the President of The Wildlife Center of Virginia Edward Clark took to the pitcher's mound. Instead of cradling a baseball and mitt, Clark was holding a massive bald eagle in a tight two-armed grip.
The eagle was a 7-year-old female, with classic white feathering on her head and tail, rescued on June 12 from a near death experience, and nursed back to health in the care of the wildlife center.
When they found her, said Clark, they thought she was dead. Based on the wildlife center's findings, the eagle had ingested some sort of toxin, likely at the landfill, a common fate as eagle populations are forced further west by dwindling habitats along the coast and must turn to scavenging to survive.
Tuesday morning she looked very much alive.
“I can assure you this bird is anything but dead this morning," Clark said to a laughing crowd. "There may be a brief wrestling demonstration before we’re done."
Facing the open blue sky above the ball field, Clark counted to three and released the eagle from outstretched arms. With a seven-foot wingspan, it didn't take long for her to clear the treeline, and under the watchful eyes of an awed crowd, she disappeared rapidly over the horizon.