The scene at Las Vegas Ballpark Tuesday should have been nothing but joyful. After all, it was the grand opening of the new home of the Las Vegas Aviators, who proceeded to rout the Sacramento River Cats, 10-2.
However, the crowd at the 10,000-seat facility in Summerlin, Nev., booed heavily at one point, and with good reason: The home-plate umpire wouldn’t let a bat dog do what a bat dog does.
That, of course, is fetch bats deposited near home plate by hitters, and Finn the Bat Dog was on the verge of doing so when the umpire decided to do the pooch’s job for him. He picked up the bat and tossed it toward the first-base dugout, leaving Finn to chase after it and, as one would expect from a good dog, finish the task.
Bad ump! Bad! That act of canine disrespect earned the official immediate derision from many in attendance.
It’s not like the umpire couldn’t have known a dog was coming to collect the equipment, as Finn has been working home games for the Class AAA Pacific Coast League team, previously called the 51s, for the past three years. “He’s much faster than a regular batboy would be,” Fred Hassen, the owner and trainer of the six-year-old Labrador retriever, said in 2018 (via KSNV).
The Aviators opened the season with five games on the road before finally getting a chance to show off their new digs. The team is a new affiliate of the Oakland A’s this season, after being affiliated with the New York Mets since 2013.
Adding to the shame of the situation Tuesday was that Finn, or at least the human running his Twitter account, had said a few days before the game, “Can’t wait to see all my #umpire buddies again!!” The black Lab has even been known to bring water out for those calling Las Vegas games.
Finn is one of a few of his furry kind working minor league games. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder is enjoying the services of a third-generation bat dog, Rookie, a Golden Retriever following in the paw-steps of his father, “Home Run” Derby, and grandfather, Chase.
A fourth-generation Golden Retriever, Jake the Diamond Dog, reportedly retired last year at the age of 12. Another who plied the noble trade in 2018 was JJ The Field General, a Red Golden Retriever who was unleashed in Detroit’s United Shore Professional Baseball League.
As with umpires, not to mention players, coaches and everyone else, bat dogs occasionally make their own ear-scratching moves. Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, the bat dog of the Greensboro (N.C.) Grasshoppers, saw a player last year momentarily lay his bat down between pitches and was determined to fetch it, even after he picked it back up again.
Meanwhile, the doggy mascot of the Frisco (Tex.) RoughRiders, Brooks, never quite got the hang of the bat-fetching thing. Brooks is better at running around the base paths, but even then has trouble sometimes avoiding obstacles. Hey, look alive, kid!
According to Hassen, Finn occasionally makes himself the mutt of jokes with a miscue. “There are some moments where somebody will come out with a ball, he’ll be in the middle of getting the bat, and the umpire will roll the ball to the pitcher,” he told KSNV, “and Finn will just stop in the middle and go out to the ball.”
On Tuesday, though, it was the umpire who struck out, at least in terms of public opinion. Finn, though, showed he is not one to take a mastiff amount of umbrage over such things.
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