In less than a month he’s gone from non-roster un-invitee to being the most popular Brewer in Maryvale. And Friday the Brewers made it official; Hank, "The Ballpark Pup," will be heading north to Milwaukee.
The team announced that Hank will join Brewers executives, sponsors and families on a Southwest Airlines charter flight to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport on Sunday. Dignitaries expected to be on hand for Hank’s airport arrival include Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
"We’re grateful to have an opportunity to make Hank a permanent member of the Brewers family," said Brewers president of baseball operations and general manager Doug Melvin. "But even more important, we’re thrilled that he is going to a great family that will ensure that he is loved and comfortable in his new Wisconsin home."
Hank, who has been adopted by a Brewers executive in Milwaukee, wandered into Maryvale Baseball Park as a stray on Feb. 17. Within days Brewers staffers had him examined by a veterinarian, treated for a laceration on his underside, purchased him a bed, found him a comfortable spot in the team offices and began taking turns hosting him at night.
At least one part Bichon, he quickly became a favorite of Brewers pitchers and catchers during the opening days of spring training. As position players and fans began to arrive in Maryvale, Hank charmed them the way that only 15 pounds of friendly canine fluff can.
Introduced to Brewers fans through social media, within a matter of days Hank’s story spread to news outlets around the world including the London Daily Mail, People Magazine and nearly every major national news and talk show in the United States.
"In addition to this being a captivating story," said Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger. "Our goal has been to shed more light on the issue of stray and homeless pets, a problem that is not unique to just Arizona and Wisconsin."
The Brewers have worked closely with the Arizona and Wisconsin Humane Societies over the last four weeks to make sure Hank was cared for properly as he adjusted to his new surroundings. The team also posted fliers in and around Maryvale in an effort to find Hank’s owners.
As a result of the team’s contact with the Arizona Humane Society, the Brewers held their first-ever pet adoption fair at Maryvale Baseball Park during the team’s March 8 game against the Kansas City Royals. Two dogs were adopted at the fair while thousands of fans were introduced to the work the Humane Society does.
Hank has also welcomed spring training fans at a special concourse booth, where guests have lined up for an opportunity to have their photo taken in exchange for a voluntary donation to the Humane Society. Through these and other opportunities, Hank has already helped raise thousands of dollars to help fellow animals who haven’t been adopted by Major League Baseball teams.
Brewers fans are already asking about a Hank bobblehead, while more than one fan has been spotted at Maryvale Baseball Park wearing a jersey with "Hank" and the number "K9" on the back. The Brewers have not announced exactly what Hank’s role will be in Milwaukee, but it seems certain that "The Ballpark Pup" will continue to elevate awareness of the plight of homeless pets.
"We are excited to welcome Hank as an official Milwaukee Brewer," said Wisconsin Humane Society President & CEO Anne Reed. "We are so grateful for the amazing care he has received, and for the way the players and the Brewers organization have used Hank’s story to highlight the needs of homeless animals like him. More than 10,000 animals were adopted from the Wisconsin Humane Society in 2013 and it is that incredible support which makes Southeastern Wisconsin such a kind and compassionate place for animals like Hank. We know he’ll love Milwaukee!"