After 11 years serving as the bat dog of the Trenton Thunder, Chase heads off into retirement with one final ceremony. (Photo from Trenton Thunder on Facebook)
Since 2002, the Trenton Thunder, Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, have had hundreds of players wander through their locker rooms. They’ve had a couple of different managers and dozens of coaches. However, there has always been one consistent face of the franchise, present for 71 home games each year.
Regardless of the promotion – whether it be fireworks, kids eat free, or hat night – fans have always come out to see Chase, the team’s bat dog. For the past eleven seasons, it has always been about the dogs in Trenton. On Friday night, that was no different, as the team held a combined retirement/13th birthday party for New Jersey’s favorite bat-grabbing golden retriever.
The ceremony was truly touching. Trenton’s media department did a fantastic job compiling a four-minute long tribute video to Chase, showing some of his favorite moments retrieving bats, playing fetch between innings, and even being featured in commercials and on CNN. Joining Chase on his night were plenty of his canine friends, who attended as part of “bring your dog” night. Chase also got to spend some time with his son, Derby, who has taken over the full-time bat dog duties for Trenton, and his grandpup, Champ. Chase’s other son, Ollie, could not be in attendance — he is currently the bat dog for the Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
For many, the thought was that Chase’s retirement was simply due to his old age. Then, the revelation came from Thunder Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales and Partnerships Eric Lipsman, who owns Chase and Derby: Chase has lymphoma.
“It has been a tough week,” Lipsman said. “He’s had cancer since February. He’s struggled through it. He’s also got severe arthritis, which is why he was hobbled, and if you saw his legs wrapped in blue, and that is from where he’s had intravenous and chemotherapy. But he’s a brave dog, and I just wanted him to be out there to hear those cheers.”
And cheers there were. Though Chase was unable to retrieve one final bat as originally was planned, the fans cheered loud and proud of their bat dog. For many, a hot night in New Jersey’s capital was well-spent celebrating the past eleven years as they came out to say one final goodbye to their friend Chase.
Heathcott with Chase prior to Friday’s game (Photo from Trenton Thunder on Facebook).
It hasn’t just been tough for fans to say goodbye. During his tenure with the Thunder, Chase has touched several players and coaches as well. Among those mentioned were current Yankees catcher Austin Romine and current Thunder outfielder Slade Heathcott. As Chase lay in the grass for the pre-game ceremony in his honor, Heathcott came out to his side, rubbing his friend’s ears at one point.
“A dog’ll put you in a good mood,” Heathcott said prior to Friday’s game. He didn’t stop smiling the whole time we talked. “It give you kind of a feeling of being back at home.”
That feeling was echoed by several other members of the Thunder, including Zach Nuding, Tyler Austin, and the team’s manager, Tony Franklin. For Franklin, who has been here since 2007, the connection to Chase was a close one.
“They become family,” Franklin added. “So you miss family.”
With Chase, everyone in the organization has viewed him as family for a long time. There is no doubt that everyone will miss him both on and off the field. In the case of Chase the bat dog, retirement has cost the team not only their bat dog and the face of their franchise, but also their friend.