The most popular member of the Milwaukee Brewers at spring training is a rookie who comes with pedigree, an excellent clubhouse presence and good legs.
Four legs, in fact. Along with a button nose and scruffy, white fur. In fact, Hank the dog may be the early lock for camp MVP – Most Valuable Pet.
“Yeah, he’s making a pretty big impact, which I’ve got to say is pretty cool,” pitcher Yovani Gallardo said. “It’s getting a lot of attention, for sure. I think he likes it, too.”
The dog days for the Brewers arrived Feb. 17 when the stray pooch wandered on to the team’s complex in Phoenix, Ariz., looking a little roughed up.
Team employees took him to a veterinarian for a checkup and bath. The vet spotted a tail injury and some gray markings around his right hind leg, a sign that he may have been run over by a vehicle.
The vet estimated Hank is around 2 years old. No definitive word on the breed – though he looks like a bichon frise mix.
The Brewers quickly took in the dog and named him Hank after baseball great Hank Aaron, who began his career in Milwaukee. And no bones about it – the unofficial mascot has been treated like a Hall of Famer ever since.
Barely a week into camp, Hank was assigned the No. 1 doggy jersey. He even had coach Ed Sedar personally going to the food line to fetch him his favorite breakfast dish, scrambled eggs.
“I’m second banana now,” Tweeted Bob Uecker, the club’s popular broadcaster.
Signs were put up in the area about the dog, seeking his owner. The team publicized Hank’s arrival on social media, and he soon became a local celebrity.
“I was in Europe this week on business and I had four texts from my wife,” team owner Mark Attanasio said. “Three of them were ‘What can I do to adopt Hank the Dog?’”
For Gallardo, who owns a boxer that didn’t make the trip to Arizona, Hank has been a more than suitable spring sub.
“It’s awesome, [he] didn’t miss one groundball,” he said of their time on the infield together.
When the adorably furry face isn’t drawing attention, the dog takes breaks in the stadium operations office, not far from water and food dishes. Staff members take turns housing Hank for the evening. If the local owner isn’t found, Hank is likely be adopted by the club and make the trip north to Miller Park.
“A number of different departments are vying for him,” Attanasio said. “The players want him on the roster and to travel with the team. [General manager Doug] Melvin’s trying to get him into a baseball meeting later today.”
“We want to do what’s right for the team,” Attanasio continued. “I think he’s really an asset.”