Throughout every game at Jimmy John’s Field in the United Shore Professional Baseball League, cheers and applause ring out as the audience is amazed at what they are seeing.
But no, it has nothing to do with home runs or other great plays that take place during the course of the games.
Instead, when a loud cheer goes up, it means the bat dog is at work again.
Yep, that would be, JJ The Field General, a red golden retriever who helps fill the role of a regular bat boy for the games (there still is a bat boy, but JJ helps out).
When called upon, JJ runs out onto the field after a player discards his bat, grabs the bat with his mouth and brings it back to the dugout.
In between innings, JJ also runs out onto the field carrying a basket filled with water bottles to help hydrate the umpires.
“On a daily basis there are people who tell us that they come to the games to see JJ, and that JJ is their favorite part of the night,” said Dana Schmitt, the president of the USPBL.
Other duties JJ has include the following:
- Has a meet and greet table right inside the main front gates to the ballpark, where fans can take photos with him for the first 30 minutes after gates open.
- Takes the first pitch baseballs to the pitcher’s mound in a basket before each game.
- Takes flowers to a Sweatheart of the Game in the grandstands during the 1st inning of each game.
Schmitt said that JJ is 5 years old and lives with her when not at the stadium, but usually can’t wait to get to the ballpark for game days.
He also has his own bobblehead and plush toy at the stadium.
“It’s his favorite place to be,” Schmitt said. “He cries when we pull up to the ballpark because he is so excited.”
JJ isn’t the first bat dog, as a dog named “Jake the Diamond Dog” has traveled to minor league stadiums across the country for years, doing the same type of duties JJ does.
Schmitt said after Jake performed at Jimmy John’s Field in 2016 during the stadium’s first season, Jake’s trainer was hired to find and train another dog to be the field’s own resident bat dog.
After finding JJ in California, the trainer brought him to his home in Ohio to work with him, and then brought JJ to the league for the 2018 season.
During those first years, local trainers helped manage JJ on the field to help make sure he was sticking to his tasks and routines.
At this point, Schmitt said the job of the handlers is a lot easier because JJ knows his routine so well.
Unfortunately for fans of both baseball and JJ, the season is winding down and it will soon be time to hibernate for the winter.
But if you are driving by Jimmy John’s Field in September — or next spring and summer — and you hear a big cheer, you’ll likely know who it is for.
Have you seen JJ in action and what did you think of him? Let us know in the comments below.