Baseball Bat Dogs Hit a Home Run With Fans

10 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
March 28, 2024

A golden retriever wears a baseball hat and carries a baseball bat

Opening Day for Major League Baseball in America is March 28, 2024, the highly anticipated first day where 30 teams will each play 162 games during the regular season ending in late September or early October. This year, fans will be munching on the first boxes of peanuts and Cracker Jacks of the year as they watch these teams play over 2,400 games during the season. Teams from both the American League and the National League have been preparing since February to hold workouts, play in exhibition games, and finalize roster decisions, ready to showcase their hard work on Opening Day. 

In addition to the national spotlight, hundreds of baseball teams ranging from minor league teams, college teams, and local teams will begin their seasons soon as well. Opening Day for Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams rolls out shortly after MLB Opening Day in stadiums across the country. 

Another type of player has also been training for months for the Big Day – baseball bat dogs, also called ballpark bat dogs. What’s more American than apple pie, baseball, and a loyal dog with an elevated game of fetch? See how these baseball bat dogs perform their duties when the baseball season is in full swing and knock it out of the park with fans. 

Responsibilities of a Ballpark Bat Dog

Ballpark bat dogs take the place of a traditional bat boy or bat girl who retrieves bats after a successful run is hit. Their traditional job is to pick up the bats without leaving teeth marks and return directly to the dugout with no funny business or galavanting around. Ballpark bat dogs are trained to treat the bats gently.

However, bringing back the bat is not the only job of a hardworking baseball bat canine. In addition to their main job, bat dogs can bring water or towels to umpires and players. They also participate in pre-game activities such as greeting players and running laps around the bases. Some perform tricks in between innings to entertain the crowd. 

Their activities are not just limited to game time. Baseball bag dogs become celebrities in local communities, making appearances at events and schools to delight fans. Some assist organizations and foundations in philanthropic ways. While Minor League Baseball teams already have official mascots, bat dogs serve as popular unofficial mascots. Some even have their own merchandise like stuffed animals, baseball cards, and bobbleheads made to commemorate their place on the team!

Training a Baseball Bat Dog

While it may look like fun and games, baseball bat dogs receive extensive training beginning in their puppyhood to prepare them for their very important roles. Each ballpark dog needs consistency in training, endurance to maintain energy fetching and retrieving, and strength to carry bats, heavy water jugs, and more. Training can begin as puppies, but older dogs have had success. Some are chosen as “walk-ons” for the role, while others are born into a dynasty of generations of bat dogs. Dog breeds that are currently ballpark bat dogs include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, a German Shepherd, a Pit Bull, a Bernedoodle, a Double Doodle, a Belgian Malinois, a Boxer, mixed breeds, and yes, even a Pug and a Morkie/Yorktese who have modified duties due to their sizes. 

Dogs just being dogs

Even though thorough training goes into teaching a baseball bat dog the “proper” way to act, funny accidents still happen. One time a bat dog decided “Diamonds are a dog’s best friend” and actually stole some bases from the diamond to bring those back to the dugout instead of the bats. Another one named “Deuce” lived up to his name, and the game had to stop while Deuce’s handler had to clean up the present Deuce left on the field. 

Even after months of training, the Trenton Thunder’s dog Rookie’s first chance at retrieving a bat during a game was a comedy of errors. He ran out of the dugout, around the infielder and into the foul ball area, visiting the other team’s center fielder to return to a crowd laughing uproariously. Rookie eventually learned what to do.

Major League Baseball Bat & Ball Dogs

While not officially organized by MLB, working bat dogs have participated in enhancing the game for players and fans alike, but more could be done to include them as a permanent fixture. Groups are advocating to include baseball bat dogs in Major League games, but the idea is slow to catch on. 

BARK Program for San Francisco Giants

One example where dogs have made an impact is when the San Franciso Giants star player, Barry Bonds, was hitting home runs at an astonishing and historic rate. Balls knocked out of Pacific Bell Park from foul balls and impressive home runs would end up in McCovey Cove to be collected by enthusiastic fans on boats and other watercraft. 

The tradition of retrieving these baseball treasures from the cove became a spectacle in itself. Boats would eagerly line up, hoping to capture a piece of baseball history by snagging one of these coveted balls. A special initiative known as the Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps, affectionately abbreviated as BARK, was established enlisting mostly Portuguese Water Dogs to assist in retrieving the balls from the bay.

However, as the popularity of BARK grew and more watercraft flocked to McCovey Cove, concerns arose regarding the safety of the dogs. The sheer volume of watercraft navigating the area posed risks that could compromise the well-being of these loyal companions. While the BARK program ended, the legacy of the retrieval dogs lives as a fond memory. 


Hank the Ballpark Pup, Milwaukee Brewers

In 2014, a scruffy Bichon Frise mixed stray wandered up to the Milwaukee Brewers’ Spring Training camp in Phoenix and wouldn’t leave. The team admired his courage and spunk, and they adopted him while he healed from a minor injury – and never left. He accompanied the team everywhere, eating from the buffet, supervising the drill stations, and worked his way up to participate in game day activities. Dressed in Milwaukee Brewers garb, fans loved him so much that his social media sites blew up, attracting international fame. He was so popular that they sold out both the stadium seats and a Hank Bobblehead! However, his owners never came forward to claim him, so Hank became a permanent member of the Brewers community. 

Hank the Ballpark Pup was not only a delightful spectacle but also a philanthropist. Due to his popularity, Hank’s merchandise flew off the shelves. The Milwaukee Brewers donated 20% of retail sales to the Wisconsin Humane Society, reaching $150,000 in contributions. 

While the BARK program and Hank may be gone now, several MLB teams offer special games for pooches for a dog-friendly experience called “Bark in the Park” or other cute variations. However, the idea of baseball bat dogs has not quite caught on yet. Instead, Minor League teams are one paw ahead of the MLB with their fantastic range of slugger canines. 


Baseball Bat Dogs’ History in Minor League Baseball

A few early baseball bat dogs have paved the way for the bat dog standard. Jake the Diamond Dog was a traveling baseball bat dog act beginning in 1990 that would visit various baseball stadiums with his handler. He wowed the crowds with bringing umpires water, standing with teammates during the National Anthem, delivering flowers to fans, and more. Jake the Diamond Dog is actually a stage name, as several dogs have adopted the moniker “Jake” over the years. 

The next two teams to utilize baseball bat dogs were the Trenton Thunder and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Chase “That Golden Thunder” the Golden Retriever baseball bat dog made history as the first full-time dog to fetch bats exclusively for a minor league baseball team and did so for 13 years. Over his career, he was featured on countless international, national, and local broadcasts, appeared in Sports Illustrated, and was beloved by fans worldwide. Subsequent Trenton Thunder ball dogs have been Derby, Rookie, and Dash. 

Beloved Baseball Bat Dogs

Meet some of the baseball bat dogs of the minor league. Several of them have cheeky names relating to baseball terminology and famous baseball players with shoutouts going to Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, Mrs. Babe Ruth, Ripken, Rookie, and Slider. 


Dinger, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans' home run dog

Dinger, Deuce & Slider, Myrtle Beach Pelicans 

​​Dinger began bringing balls to the umpire in 1999, and he remained a part of Myrtle Beach Pelicans games. Another yellow Lab named Deuce began training with Dinger in 2007 to pass on the bone. Deuce retired in 2018, and Slider took over in 2019, clearly a legacy that fans adore. These baseball bat dogs would carry baskets, fetch bats, run the bases, and other feats to the crowd’s delight. 

Miss Babe Ruth, Master Yogi Berra, & Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, Greensboro Grasshoppers

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ affiliation with the Greensboro Grasshoppers also carries a strong legacy of ballpark ball dogs dating back to 2006. General Manager Donald Moore loved dogs and realized that minor league baseball was great family entertainment and wanted to adopt the idea for their team. 

The first dog to become a fan favorite was Miss Babe Ruth, a black Lab less than a year old. When she retired in 2015, her ball bucket went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and she even received two mayoral results in the 2018 Greensboro election!

Miss Babe Ruth’s brother was Master Yogi Berra who was only interested in fetching and retrieving balls. His signature move was chasing a ball out of a T-shirt cannon gun to the crowd’s cheers. He also was the first dog to get ejected from the game for leaving his mark on the field (but wouldn’t be the last)!

Miss Lou Lou Gehrig’s trainer, Linwood O’Briant, got her game ready, especially for the July 4 fireworks. He tapped into her hunting instincts and would train her to be a bird dog, but retrieving bats instead of birds. His gun desensitized Miss Lou Lou Gehrig to loud booming noises, and she had no problem celebrating the holiday. Little Jackie Robinson and Willie Mae Mays are the newest canine Grasshoppers to join the ranks. 

Ripken, Durham Bulls

Ripken is a black American Labrador Retriever who leads a busy life in the Triangle Area of North Carolina. Ripken is the baseball bat dog for the Durham Bulls and also assists at NHL Carolina Hurricanes and NC State Football games in Raleigh, NC. He got his start at the Holly Springs Salamanders games and was such a hit that he was called up to the Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate. 

Ripken captures the hearts of fans from three different sports with his playful antics and impressive skills. Trained by Sit Means Sit, Ripken embodies the perfect blend of obedience and athleticism, whether he is fetching bats for the Durham Bulls, dropping the first puck for the Canes, or retrieving kickoff footballs for the Wolfpack. 

No shortage of talented baseball bat dogs

All over the country, baseball bat dogs serve their teams proudly. Some notable baseball bat dogs are: 

Hit a Home Run with a Pawrade Puppy

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Who knows – your Pawrade puppy may become the next beloved bat dog for your local team or be one of the first Major League Baseball bat dogs! 


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Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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