The Trenton Thunder on Saturday suffered a tremendous loss when Derby, its beloved second generation batdog, died. The team’s second in a line of three Golden Retrievers, Derby had been bringing bats back to the dugout since 2010, two years after he was born.
“Derby was one of the biggest parts of our identity in the nine years of his life and it breaks my heart to share this news with our fans ahead of our 25th season,” Thunder general manager Jeff Hurley said in a release. “His presence at our games and in the community was massive and every person and dog that interacted with him will miss him dearly.”
The team also announced that it planned to hold a day of remembrance for Derby on Friday, Jan. 26, which will include a video tribute via social media.
Derby was the son of Chase--the team’s original batdog from 2002 until his retirement in 2013--and the brother of Ollie, the batdog for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats until his retirement in 2016. Derby was also the father of Rookie, who started learning the family trade in 2014.
Rookie became an Internet sensation last season when, during a one-game promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he decided the baseball in Norfolk righthander Alec Asher’s hand was far more interesting than a bat.
Rookie the Bat Dog doesn’t grab the bat, still does something awesome. pic.twitter.com/UIJt236O2C
-- Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) July 19, 2017
Derby’s death marks the second such loss for the minor league community in a matter of months. In August, the Greensboro Grasshoppers mourned the passing of Master Yogi Berra, one of the team’s three bat-fetching (and in Yogi’s case, ball-fetching) black labradors.
Both Derby and Yogi succumbed to cancer.
As someone who covered the Thunder on a daily basis from 2008 until getting hired at Baseball America in 2013, it was easy to fall in love with Derby. From the first day he ambled into the hallway just outside the home clubhouse and greeted the assembled beat writers with face-licks, it was clear Derby was everybody’s friend.
Everybody, that is, except Reading Fightin’ Phils mascot Bucky the Beaver.
-- Eric Lipsman (@E_Lipsman) April 20, 2017
The Thunder honored Derby this year by wearing an image of him on their jerseys during a game on June 26 at Arm & Hammer Park for Bat Dog Appreciation Day.
-- Eric Lipsman (@E_Lipsman) June 25, 2017
Derby made many famous friends over the years, including Yankees greats like Hideki Matsui, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Aaron Judge, other celebrities like NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., supermodel Brooklyn Decker and ESPN personality Katie Nolan. But the one who stood out from the rest was Hall of Fame slugger and current Yankees special advisor Reggie Jackson, who was immortalized on a bobblehead with Derby during the 2017 season.
Since 2002, every person who’s attended a Thunder game has seen at least one Golden Retriever gleefully bringing bats from the field to the dugout. And whether it was Chase, Derby or Rookie, you knew you were seeing something special. Derby might be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten.