Turning 84 (in dog years), a very good boy retires from bat-retrieving duties

April 22nd, 2024

One of the most beloved members of the Minor League Baseball community -- a very good boy -- called it a career on Friday night. Finn, bat dog of the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators, officially retired from his bat retrieving and fan engagement duties and was given a fitting farewell party.

The first 2,000 fans who entered Las Vegas Ballpark received a commemorative Finn jersey, and the black Labrador had a long line of Aviators fans waiting to fete him in a meet-and-greet. On the field, the Oakland affiliate honored their furry friend by securing an 11-7 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers.

Finn will soon turn 12 -- or 84 in dog years. He has been part of the Las Vegas baseball landscape since 2016 when the team was then known as the 51s and played home games at Cashman Field. As part of Friday’s on-field ceremony before the game, the beloved pup received a parting gift: a golden bat. He then retrieved the bats for the Aviators in the first inning for the final time.

"Some of the people here, they call this place the house that Finn built," said Finn's handler Fred Hassen, of Sit Means Sit dog training company.

Because of some particularly canine behavior, Finn's incredible career in the Pacific Coast League could have easily ended before it even got started.

"Really early on, during the first year that Finn was here, he did a No. 2 on second base," Hassen recalled. "So, we didn’t know if he was going to get fired for that."

Luckily, Finn did not get fired for that and has been spreading joy and love to the community ever since.

In 2018, Finn and Hassen began to appear more frequently as they started to perform the first few innings of every home game. They continued to add more tricks during their appearances, including being perched atop a model fire hydrant and jumping over fences and chairs.

On hot days, Finn even brought water to the umpires. However, on Opening Day of 2019 one umpire infamously tossed away a bat before Finn could pick it up and the crowd at Las Vegas Ballpark booed mercilessly. The moment went viral, getting picked up by TV networks like ESPN as well as nationally syndicated radio shows.

"There will never be another Finn," Hassen said. "There were also a lot of things that we did for the first time. It was the first time in Minor League history that we had two dogs out here at the same time."

Hassen was referencing when the Aviators also debuted Rambo, a chocolate Labrador retriever, who appeared on a part-time basis in 2021 and full-time in 2022. The duo split bat dog duties, until Rambo went to Triple-A Reno where he remains the club's bat dog.

Finn's absence will undoubtedly be felt around the Minors. Slider, the bat dog for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, even passed along well wishes to congratulate Finn on his career with Las Vegas.

So what's next for this universally adored pooch?

"A lot of swimming and a lot of eating. Those are his two favorite pastimes," Hassen said. "So he'll be doing a lot of that in retirement."

The Aviators have announced that they will not have bat dogs this season but will continue to work with Hassen to have them in the future.