Back in February 2014, a scruffy white dog with a tire mark on his fur wandered into the Milwaukee Brewers spring training camp at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. The team fell in love with the stray and named him Hank (after Milwaukee baseball great Hank Aaron).
As I wrote for i Love Dogs at the time, when no one came forward to claim Hank after the team posted his picture on social media and local flyers, he became the Brewers’ mascot and an internet sensation. His image was featured on team apparel, and there were Hank stuffed animals and bobbleheads. The hashtag #ballparkpup went viral.
“He could not have wandered into a better situation,” Tyler Barnes, vice president of communications for the Brewers, told TODAY.com. “He’s got a family of more than 50 players and double the number of staff who love him every bit as much as a family could.”
The following January, Hank won the top honor at the World Dog Awards.
“Hank has been working his magic over the past few months, and has touched people in ways you can’t imagine, and other dogs he has single-handedly — single pawedly? — helped find homes for,” Marti Wronski, Hank’s new dog mom and the Brewers’ vice president and general counsel, said in her acceptance speech. “We promise to keep taking good care of him so he can keep everyone smiling. Please remember to keep looking into dog rescue and adoption.”
Nearly four years later, the Milwaukee Brewers have advanced to the National League Championship Series (NLCS), which made me wonder: What’s up with Hank these days?
In 2016 there were rumors that Hank had passed on to the big ballpark in the sky and was replaced by an imposter, but the Brewers proved it was just a hoax.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this month, Hank “isn’t speaking to the press.” Barnes said the pup is excited for the NLCS, but rarely makes appearances nowadays.
However, Hank has not yet officially retired. “He makes rare appearances but he deserves to live the life of a loved pet,” Barnes told the Journal Sentinel. “The success of the team this year has kept the focus and excitement on the field.”
As a lifelong Los Angeles resident and Dodgers fan, I’ll be rooting for my home team during the NLCS. But if the Brewers win the National League title and go on to play in the World Series, I’ll be cheering them on — and hoping for a very special guest appearance by Hank the dog.