Famous minor league bat dog Chase dies

Baseball fans across the country are mourning the loss of one of their own. Golden Retriever Chase, a lovable and familiar presence at New York Yankees minor league affiliate team the Double-A Trenton Thunder for the past 11 years, has passed away. Chase lost his battle with lymphoma Monday morning, only days after attending his retirement party. He was 13-years-old when he died.

Chase passed away only days after his retirement party; he was with the Trenton Thunder for 11 years.

Trenton Thunder spokesperson Bill Cook explains how much it meant to the team and the Thunder’s loyal fans, including hundreds of kids who grew up watching the spunky Golden Retriever at home games, that Chase was able to make it to his Friday night retirement celebration before he passed.

“We had a wonderful celebration of his life and everything that he had meant to the team,” Cook tells NJ.com. “Fans had a chance to see him one last time.”

News of Chase’s death spread quickly in the Thunder fan community, and Cook says he and the rest of the organization are touched by all the love that’s come their way since their devastating loss.

“Just looking at the outpouring of support and the messages we’ve gotten on Twitter and Facebook and the news coverage that we’ve seen on a national level just over the few hours today speaks to his legacy,” says Cook.

Chase joined the Trenton Thunder family in 2002 as the team’s trusty bat dog, and he quickly became a fixture in his community. When he wasn’t busy entertaining the crowds at Arm & Hammer Park, retrieving baseball bats off the field and visiting players in the dugout, Chase was visiting local schools, hospitals and attending special events. Chase was always making headlines, gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated and this month’s issue of Yankees Magazine. He also made frequent appearances on CNN, ESPN and even Japanese television.

In fact, Chase was such a beloved member of the baseball community that last month, he became the very first dog honored on the field at Yankee Stadium.

Thunder staff posted a loving tribute to their loyal friend after his passing with a web banner that reads, “Chase: That Golden Thunder.” A memorial video chock full of Chase highlights shows what an important role the happy Golden played on the popular minor league team.

“Chase was such a tremendous part of the Trenton Thunder identity for more than 10 years,” Trenton Thunder General Manager Will Smith said in a statement. “His presence at Arm & Hammer Park or in the community was the epitome of the wholesome family entertainment for which we strive.”

“Our ball players, staff, season ticket holders and all the men, women and children who he entertained and interacted with over the past decade will miss him dearly,” Smith adds.

“Chase was there a long time,” current New York Yankees pitcher and former member of the Trenton Thunder squad Joba Chamberlain tells CBS News. “He put a lot of smiles on people’s faces.”

Chamberlain continues, saying it is hard to imagine a Trenton game without Chase but that his memory will carry on through his two bat-retrieving sons — Derby, who will take over duties at the Thunder’s ARM & HAMMER Park, and Ollie, a bat-dog for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

“You know it’s going to be sad, but his lineage is carried on,” the major league pitcher says. “You know it’s something that people are going to miss, but it was fun to be around Chase.”

To learn more about Chase or to send your condolences to Chase’s Trenton Thunder family, friends and fans, pay a visit and post a message on the Trenton Thunder Facebook page. Fans who wish to pay tribute to the iconic Golden Retriever are asked to make a monetary donation to the Trenton Thunder Charities or a community animal shelter or rescue organization in lieu of flowers.

Sources: MILB.com, NJ.com, CBS News