TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — He doggedly did his work, this pinstriped pooch who faithfully served minor leaguers of the New York Yankees while providing big league entertainment.
Chase, the bat-retrieving golden retriever for the Double-A Trenton Thunder who made highlight reels all across baseball for a decade, has died at 13.
“Chase was there a long time. He put a lot of smiles on people’s faces,” Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, who played in Trenton, said Tuesday night.
“You know it’s going to be sad, but his lineage is carried on. You know it’s something that people are going to miss, but it was fun to be around Chase,” he said.
Chase lived just long enough to be thrown a retirement party by the Thunder last Friday night — featuring Chase bobbleheads, no less. The team said he died Monday.
Chase had been diagnosed in February with a form of lymphoma and had arthritis.
The Thunder’s website Tuesday featured a photo of their late mascot with a bat in his mouth and the caption, “In Loving Memory, Chase That Golden Thunder.”
His bat-retrieving legacy will live on with his son Derby, who continues to be part of the Thunder’s home game entertainment. Another son, Ollie, performs with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Chase made his debut with the Thunder in 2002. He would trot out in the bottom of the first inning to the batter’s box to pick up bats with his mouth and bring them back to the dugout. He also carried a woven basket with bottles of chilled water to the umpires and entertained fans by running down flying discs in the outfield.
At Friday’s celebration, which coincided with his birthday party, fans were encouraged to bring their dogs to the game.
Last month, he was also honored on the field at Yankee Stadium. Chamberlain petted Chase before the game and infielder David Adams came over to greet his old friend.
Adams recalled Chase retrieving his bat, doing it without leaving teeth marks in the wood.
“He’s not chomping at the bit,” Adams said then. “Or at the bat, either.”
Dogs of all shapes and sizes were at Trenton’s game Friday night against Reading, sitting in the stands with their owners. As fans filed in, Chase lounged on the grass outside the Thunder’s dugout on the first-base side.
A tribute to Chase’s career was shown on the video board. Chase was in position near the bench when Eduardo Nunez — who has since rejoined the Yankees — led off for Trenton in the bottom of the first inning. After the at-bat, Chase trotted out, picked up Nunez’s bat and returned to the dugout to a big cheer from the crowd.