Chase the bat dog retires on July 5 after 11 years with the Trenton Thunder. (Photo courtesy of Trenton Thunder)

After 11 years with the Trenton Thunder, it’s time for Chase to retrieve one last bat. The beloved bat dog will retire (and celebrate his 13th birthday) at Arm & Hammer Park on July 5.

The Thunder introduced Chase in 2002 after fans ate up an act called “Jake the Diamond Dog” that came to Trenton in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

“The fans just went absolutely crazy for it,” said Eric Lipsman, the Thunder’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales and Partnerships. “They’d never seen anything like that.”

They started a dialogue with Jake’s owner, who eventually found them a Golden Retriever puppy. Chase trained and traveled with Jake for a year and a half and came to Trenton when he was 2.

The fans had a field day, just as the Thunder anticipated.

“They fell in love with him from day one,” Lipsman said. “It was one thing to have a dog here once or twice a year, but seeing him here every night was great not only for the fans, but for the players and our manager as well.”

Soon, Chase caught the attention of media outlets like CNN, Fox, Sports Illustrated and countless newspapers across the country. A television crew once came all the way from Japan to do a spot on him, and he also made a recent trip to Yankee Stadium, where he was hailed as “The Legendary Chase.” He got to pose with players and even made an appearance on the giant video board.

It’s no wonder—only a handful of clubs can boast about their bat dogs. Despite the pup’s fame, though, Director of Finance and Baseball Operations Jeff Hurley said Chase is a consummate professional.

“Even though he is a dog, he knows when it’s time to go to work,” he said. “He knows when it’s 5:45, and he has to go outside to get ready before he goes on the field. Even now when he’s not getting as many bats as he used to in the past, at 6:30, he’s up and out at Eric’s office and waiting for you to put his bib on. He’s like an employee. We don’t even consider him a dog.”

The same goes for Derby, Chase’s replacement and 5-year-old son. On gamedays, the two dogs are always at the ballpark. It’s a minor homesickness cure for the players, Lipsman said.

“I think it was kind of strange at first for them,” he said. “But, a lot of these players have dogs at home, and they’re away from them for six months. Having dogs in the clubhouse gives them a little bit of a feeling of home.”

Lipsman gets that little feeling of home every time he comes to the office, too; Chase and Derby live with him. He said the two have everything a dog lover could want in a pet.

“Chase is even professional at home,” he said. “He doesn’t bark. He’s a great, loving and fun dog. Smart is probably an understatement. He has one toy that we fill with treats, and he’ll walk over with it hanging out of his mouth like he’s saying, ‘Okay, fill it for me.’ He’s just funny. He does some pretty neat things.”

It seems like everyone in the Thunder organization feels the same way, but having an office dog can do that to a person.

“It’s definitely interesting,” Hurley said. “When you come into work, it’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re typing away at your computer and you feel Chase or Derby’s nose hitting your arm trying to get your attention. In Chase’s younger years, we’d play a quick game of fetch. It was a nice break from the work day. It’s just nice having them around.”

The Thunder will celebrate Chase’s retirement and birthday during the July 5 game against Reading at 7:05 p.m. Owners are encouraged to bring their own well-behaved dogs to the park, and the first 2,000 fans 14 and older will receive a Chase bobblehead.

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