While currently out-of-work utility dude Shea Hillenbrand has been portrayed as a loose cannon / clubhouse cancer on numerous occasions, the LA Times’ Kevin Baxter shows the softer side of the man who once called Theo Epstein a fag (link culled from Baseball Think Factory).

The Hillenbrands collect animals the way other couples collect fine art. Between the farm and their nearby home, they have more than 90 animals, many of them rare and exotic, ranging from a Galapagos tortoise, an Australian wallaby and several miniature horses to three llamas, a zebu and a few head of cattle adopted just hours before they were to be shipped to a slaughterhouse.

Next month, the Hillenbrands will turn a huge swath of the farm into a petting zoo for inner-city kids and children with disabilities or special needs. There are also plans to make the farm a refuge for abandoned or abused animals.

And those are just the latest in a series of projects the couple has undertaken to help both animals and children, with much of the work funneled through their nonprofit foundation Against All Odds.

“We just have a passion for animals and we’re in a position where we can share it with other people,” Shea Hillenbrand says. “It’s all about the kids, to come out and experience it. There’s no place around here that will be able to compare with what we’ll be able to offer these kids.”

And on a recent birthday, Jessica, whose father, veterinarian Dean Rice, is a former head of the Phoenix Zoo, gave Shea a giant aldabra tortoise. Now the couple’s collection has grown so large they are building a new home — one that will include an aviary — on the edge of Marley Farms, which was named after Jessica’s first dog.

“It’s like Dr. Doolittle,” Hillenbrand says. “We have animals everywhere. If you don’t get along you can’t stay.”

Well, maybe. But did Doolittle ever come home to find one of his miniature horses in the kitchen, munching carrots out of the refrigerator? And how many times did Doolittle’s pig get into the house through the doggy door? Or what about the time Jessica, home alone in bed with a horrible cold, had a goat named Willie Mays jump over a wall, find its way into the house and urinate on her sheets.

“And goats pee,” Shea adds helpfully, “for like a minute and half straight. They don’t hold back.”