What could be more all-American than baseball and dogs? Combine the two and it makes for a perfect summer afternoon.
Across the country, minor league baseball teams — and even a few major league teams — have their very own baseball dogs that are as much a part of the team as players, coaches, and staff. Many of these dogs are also fan favorites, entertaining spectators before, after, and sometimes during the games.
Rookie, Trenton (NJ) Thunder
First, there was Chase. Then Derby. Now, the grandson of this venerable lineage, Rookie, delights fans of the Trenton Thunder, an AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. Eric Lipsman, Sr. Vice President, Corporate Sales and Sponsorship for the Thunder, says, “We introduced him to the fans on our Opening Night in 2014, when our manager Tony Franklin walked him out to home plate for his meeting with the umpires. The fans went crazy.”
The Golden Retriever takes his role of bat dog seriously, trotting out to grab the barrel of the baseball bat and return it to the dugout after each Thunder at-bat. His execution is perfect, although his debut was less so, as you can see in the ESPN E:60 special, “The Family Business,” about the Thunder’s bat dogs, When he’s not hard at work, Rookie loves to greet the fans, hang out with the players in the clubhouse or play with his toys in the front office.
Rookie learned a lot of what he knows from his dad, Derby. Mr. Lipsman’s favorite times “were watching Rookie and his dad Derby interact. He followed Derby everywhere; they were inseparable. They loved each other so much.”
And, like his beloved dad and his grandfather before that, Rookie continues the long Trenton Thunder bat dog tradition.
Clyde, Los Angeles Angels
To see Clyde, a German Shepherd Dog mix, chasing balls (and birds), running through the water as the field gets hosed down, hanging out on the grassy outfield, and riding in the golf cart at Angels Stadium, you would never know what a rocky start he had. He began life in a high-kill shelter but was rescued by the German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County. Then, Barney and Lori Lopas fell in love with the adorable 4-month old pup and rescued him — that was his lucky day. But the Lopas’s soon realized something was very wrong. Clyde had such a severe case of fear aggression they were told it might not be curable.
The rescue stepped in and connected the Lopas’ with an experienced trainer. Along with his work with the trainer, Clyde benefited from Mr. Lopas’ determination. Night after night he sat closer and closer to Clyde’s crate, eventually even crawling inside with him, until Clyde learned to trust him. Now the dog once deemed unsalvageable and Mr. Lopas are so inseparable that they go to work together. And that’s when the fun starts.
Mr. Lopas is the head groundskeeper for the Los Angeles Angels, so Clyde spends his days at Angels Stadium. Mr. Lopas says that Clyde gets really excited when he knows he’s going to the ballpark. Everyone knows Clyde. Sometimes after games, he’ll visit with players doing rehab sessions on the field. When Mr. Lopas gets tired of throwing balls for him, there’s always another willing partner. Long gone is the fear aggression and Mr. Lopas describes Clyde as gentle and friendly, a “big old goofball.”
Clyde was lucky to find a family that wouldn’t give up on him and the L.A. Angels are lucky to have this canine team member.
Miss LouLou Gehrig—Greensboro (NC) Grasshoppers
When we think of baseball dynasties, names like Alou or Griffey come to mind. But the Greensboro Grasshoppers have a canine dynasty in the family. Their current baseball dog is a black Labrador Retriever named Miss Lou Lou Gehrig. Lou Lou is the niece of another dog, Miss Babe Ruth, who was a beloved part of the team from 2006 through 2015.
According to Donald Moore, President and General Manager of the Hoppers, Lou Lou is “rock solid” when it comes to fetching bats and running the bases. She may sometimes be over-eager, like the time she decided an at-bat was over just a little too early. That moment was captured on video and went viral on Twitter.
Mr. Moore says, “We’re in the business of people coming out and having a good time,” and Lou Lou is a big part of that. The fans love her, and for many players, far from home, Lou Lou feels like their very own dog. She even has her own baseball card in the team card set!
Hank, Milwaukee Brewers
Occasionally, a stray dog sneaks its way past security and onto the Milwaukee Brewers practice field at American Family Fields of Phoenix (AZ). But only one captured the hearts and imagination of the team and eventually, the country. Hank, a scruffy, matted Bichon Frise mix, wandered into the park in February 2014.
It didn’t take long for him to make himself at home, cadging meals from the clubhouse buffet and hanging out with the team in the locker room. Although the club’s main priority was finding Hank a home, no one came forward to claim him. But Hank became a media darling, with his story on ABC, “The Today Show,” People Magazine, and more. By the time he arrived in Milwaukee, he may have been the most well-known rookie on the team.
Hank did find his happily-ever-after home when he was adopted by Marti Wronski, team General Counsel and Senior Vice President. Ms. Wronksi says that Hank races to his collar and jersey when she asks him if he’s ready to “go to work.”
Although mostly retired now, Hank spent his days “participating” in practice drills, playing host to visiting teams and to fans, and keeping company with the office staff. According to Ms. Wronski, his favorite of all is the third base coach, Ed Sedar. The fact that Mr. Sedar would feed Hank scrambled eggs and ham for breakfast during spring training may have something to do with it. Ms. Wronki says that “Hank quite literally goes crazy when he hears Eddie’s voice and then sees him.”
Hank generated his very own conspiracy theory scandal! In 2016, there was speculation that the well-groomed, healthy and well-fed pup couldn’t be the original scruffy stray. Rumors flew that the real Hank had died and been replaced. The team held a press conference to present dental records and microchip evidence to proving that Hank really was Hank.
Hank even has a starring role in the Brewers’ remake of the beloved baseball movie “The Sandlot!”
Brooks, Frisco (TX) RoughRiders
Some athletes are born with more enthusiasm than talent and Brooks, a Labrador Retriever mix is one of them. According to the Frisco RoughRiders, an AA Affiliate of the Texas Rangers, Brooks was meant to be the team’s bat dog, and he tried, he really tried, but collecting the bat just isn’t in his wheelhouse.
But Brooks, who joined the team in 2015, does have other talents. In fact, he’s a base-running tornado. He runs the bases after games and loves meeting and greeting fans during games. The RoughRiders say he also the life of the office, with the title of “Chief Morale Officer.”
Brooks went viral when he was captured on video accidentally mowing a little boy down as he tore around the bases. When Brooks isn’t being the joyful life of the party at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, he lives at home with one of the RoughRiders’ sales representatives.
Deuce, Myrtle Beach (SC) Pelicans
Retirement parties are one thing, but few people get the kind of send-off that Deuce, the yellow Labrador Retriever did. And there was a lot to celebrate.
As a puppy, Deuce shadowed his predecessor, Dinger, learning to run the bases and bring baskets of new baseballs to the home plate umpire. Early in his career, he was the team’s bat dog, too. He also “worked” hard in the office, helping to pick up his toys, dropping his bowl in the sink when he was done eating and bringing his empty water bowl to the staff for a refill. Of course, he expected something in return and would drop his tennis ball repeatedly at the feet of staff members until someone threw it for him. When not working, Deuce helped out at the team store, where he was happy to let fans of all ages pet him and take selfies with him.
To Kristin Call, Assistant General Manager of the Pelicans, a Class A Advanced Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, Deuce’s greatest moment was his final lap. Usually, he’d run the bases after a win, but for this special day, the game was stopped between innings and Deuce ran the bases to a packed, cheering crowd, “to pay tribute to his ten years of service,” said Ms. Call. Deuce will enjoy his retirement with the local family that raised him. But hopefully, he’ll return to his “office” now and then to say hello to old friends.
Princess, Reno (NV) Aces
If ever a name “rings true with her personality,” says Andrew Daugherty, the former Executive Vice President of the Reno Aces, it’s Princess. The Aces were the last chance for the aging All-American Dog. The team, in partnership with the Nevada Humane Society, spent months fostering Princess in hope of finding her a forever home, but months went by and nobody rescued her. By then, her sweet, gentle personality had won the hearts of the Aces’ front office and she was officially adopted by Mr. Daugherty.
Princess spent every day at the ballpark, quickly learning every inch of Greater Nevada Field (and who was most likely to give her treats). To the ten-year-old Princess, the ballpark was home. According to Mr. Daugherty, her favorite “duties” included watching batting practice from the dugout and lying in the warm dirt of the infield soaking up the sun. He says, “Sunbathing is one of her favorite pastimes.” Everyone loved her and she was a real “morale booster” for the team, staff and fans alike.
Princess became a local celebrity and is even represented by a Princess plush doll, which is sold in the team store, with part of the proceeds going to the Nevada Humane Society.
Now thirteen years old, Princess is enjoying retirement in Arizona, where Mr. Daugherty is now Maryvale Site General Manager for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. He describes her as the “poster dog — so kind, patient, well-trained and smart.” After bringing so much happiness to her Aces family, Princess is getting the “end of life she deserves.”
Jake the Diamond Dog
While there are baseball dogs that spend their entire careers with one team, Jake the Diamond Dog has brought joy to dozens of ballparks. Since 2009, this Golden Retriever has brought water to umpires, taken the game ball to pitchers on the mound, stood for the national anthem, picked up bats after at-bats, and delighted fans at ballparks across the country, from Albuquerque to Buffalo, and points in between.
Jake’s favorite “job” may be the meet-and-greets he does with fans, who treat him like a celebrity. Who wouldn’t love a dog that plays Frisbee with the fans mid-game and brings a bouquet to the sweetheart of the game?
Jake’s owner and trainer, Jeff Marchal, says he’s enjoyed every minute of it, starting with his first dog, Jericho. Jake, in fact, is the fourth Diamond Dog Mr. Marchal has trained and traveled with since the 1990s, entertaining fans at minor league ballparks. He says they’ve had “great times and great fans.”
After “playing” thirty games a year, this hard-working baseball dog retired In August 2018 at age twelve. Jake spends his time enjoying himself and hanging out in Lima, Ohio.
Do You Have a Baseball Dog?
At the AKC, we may not recognize baseball as a dog sport, but there are more than a dozen sports your dog can choose from to compete in.