The morning of February 17, 2014 dawned sunny and warm in Phoenix, not unlike most days that the Milwaukee Brewers see at their Phoenix Spring Training headquarters. But what first seemed like an ordinary day soon became much more, all because of a visit from a four-legged friend.
Many major metro areas are overwhelmed with a problem of stray animals, and Phoenix is no different. Small dogs are occasionally seen wandering the outskirts of the Brewers’ training fields, but they are typically too scared to interact with anyone on site. That day, though, a scruffy, dirty, and slightly injured little dog wandered up to staff at the Brewers’ Spring Training camp and made himself at home. This pup was fearless, and he knew a good thing when he saw it. Not long after, the little guy was named Hank (after the great Hank Aaron), and his story was just starting.
Hank was cared for by staff on site, and soon Brewers coach Ed Sedar became his unofficial guardian. Sedar would feed Hank from the clubhouse buffet each day, and he quickly became friendly with various players and staff. It was clear, though, that the priority was to find Hank’s home, and the Brewers set out to do just that.
By using social and traditional media channels, the Brewers posted regular updates on Hank’s exploits. Every day, Hank would interact with players and coaches in the team’s clubhouse, go from station to station as players participated in drills, ran occasionally with the Johnsonville™ Famous Racing Sausages and hosted meet-and-greets with visiting players, celebrities and fans. Outfitted in a Brewers jersey, updates of Hank’s activities were posted every day by the Brewers, and it wasn’t long before national media picked up on the story.
Locally, nationally and internationally, Hank’s story appeared everywhere -- ABC World News Tonight, The Today Show, People Magazine, The Tonight Show, and countless others all featured Hank’s heart-warming tale, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran photos and stories about Hank virtually every day for over a month. What didn’t happen, though, was just as surprising. Despite the team’s best efforts, nobody came forward to claim Hank as their lost pet. Working with the Wisconsin Humane Society, the Brewers arranged to have Hank adopted by a team executive, and Hank’s forever home shifted north.
Hank’s popularity in Milwaukee preceded his arrival to the city, and the Brewers rolled out a line of merchandise to celebrate this popularity. In addition, the team partnered with the Wisconsin Humane Society to donate 20 percent of the retail sales from all Hank items to the “Hank Fund.” By September, the fund had reached a level of $150,000 through this contribution.
Hank’s story included an Opening Day introduction on the field, a sold-out bobblehead night, meet-and-greets with fans at games and a Hank House (dog house) built for Hank’s Miller Park visits. After his newly-found fame became too much for one dog to handle, the Hank mascot was introduced on Wisconsin Humane Society Day at Miller Park on September 13, 2014.
In January 2015, Hank was named “Dog of the Year” at the CW Network's World Dog Awards in Los Angeles, an award which was presented to the canine who made the biggest impact on pop culture in 2014. What makes Hank unique is how he came to be a part of the organization. The Brewers didn’t find Hank; Hank found the Brewers.