As the Trenton Thunder prepares to start its new season on April 3 in Arm & Hammer Park, the players will be met at the plate by the team’s new bat dog, Derby.
Unlike most AAA teams, the Thunder doesn’t have a bat boy to bring each hitter’s favorite lumber up to him. That honor has gone to the team’s beloved golden retriever, Chase who served the team since 2002.
Chase was forced to retire after the 2013 season when he was diagnosed with blood cancer and was also coping with on-going arthritis.
According to Bill Cook, the director of public relations for the Thunder, when signs of Chase’s illness developed he was taken to the vet. After making the diagnosis he recommended taking Chase back to the stadium rather than keeping him at the vet’s office.
“When Chase was brought to the stadium, he hadn’t been up to eating anything before and yet when he got there, he went right up to his water bowl and started drinking from it like nothing was wrong. This just goes to show how much at ease he was being there.” Cook told The VOICE.
Chase had been originally been trained for two years by Jeff Marchal, before he made his on field debut in 2002. Chase would go out into the field during the first inning and carry in the bats and balls with his mouth.
Though some people worried that Chase would leave marks on the bats and balls, it turns out he never did. Golden retrievers –a hunting breed—have been bred to fetch birds shot by hunters, and are naturally careful not to puncture the catch.
Besides carrying bats, Chase also carried a basket out onto the field filled with water bottles for the umpires. He’d fetch Frisbees for the fans between innings, and for everyone he caught a fan won a cash prize of $20. Chase seldom failed to catch one.
Chase even had his own spot near the team’s dugout where he would stay before assuming his duties.
At the end of a game, he would go out to the front to greet his fans and afterwards he would head home with one of the staff members who took care of him.
In recognition of Chase’s many years of service he got a special invitation from the New York Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman to come to Yankee Stadium (the Thunder are a feeder team for the Yankees).
On July 5, the day of Chase’s retirement party, the Yankee’s celebrated him as did his fans who were even allowed to bring their dogs with them to the party.
In 2008, Chase became a father to two sons, Home Run Derby “Derby” and Ollie. Derby is taking over his father’s position as the Thunder’s, while Ollie is heading off to be the bat dog for the Hampshire Fishercats.
Though Derby has big paws to fill, local baseball fans are looking forward to greeting him and seeing him carry on Chase’s legacy.