Friendly pooch becomes unofficial mascot at Brewers spring training
PHOENIX — The talk of Milwaukee Brewers’ camp hasn’t been centered around Ryan Braun’s return from suspension, Matt Garza’s addition to the rotation or even if the team will contend in 2014.
Mention the Brewers and the response will most likely be: How’s Hank?
No, Hank isn’t a candidate for one of the final spots in the bullpen. He’s a dog who has seen his fortunes change in the blink of an eye.
Hank, who was named after Hank Aaron, was spotted roaming around Maryvale Baseball Park last Monday. There are many stray dogs in that part of Phoenix, but this one was different. Hank wasn’t skittish around people, instead he had no problem walking right up to just about anyone.
The Brewers quickly took a liking to Hank, taking him to the veterinarian to get washed and checked out. A tail injury was found, indicating the pooch may have been hit by a car at some point. The vet estimated Hank to be two years old and some kind of Bichon or Bichon mix.
"He’s awesome," Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo said. "I think he’s going to fit right in. He’s laid back, fun, enjoys coming out here every day and taking care of business."
Nobody could have predicted how quickly Hank’s popularity grew and took off. The players have been carrying him around the complex, even taking him out to the practice fields. Team employees have taken turns taking Hank home for the night, while Brewers third base coach Ed Sedar fixes him a plate of sausage and eggs for breakfast each morning.
"I’m second banana now," Brewers Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker said in a quote tweeted out by the team.
He walks around the grounds wearing a Brewers jersey, posing for photos with fans, seemingly eating up the spotlight. On Monday, Hank ventured into the shower area in the clubhouse, startling a few of the players.
"I was in Europe this week on business and I had four texts from my wife," Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said. "Three of them were ‘What can I do to adopt Hank the Dog?’ "
The team has received phone calls from a couple of parties claiming to be missing their dog but nothing substantial has come of them. If Hank’s owners aren’t found by the end of spring training, the Brewers aren’t 100 percent sure where he will go.
One thing is for certain: Hank will never be a stray dog again. He’s gone from having no place to go to a hot commodity.
"Well, first of all, 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. I think he’s really an asset."
Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter