“Home Run” Derby is the Thunder’s second-generation bat dog. His dad, Chase “That Golden Thunder” was the original bat dog and a fan favorite until his retirement in July 2013. Nine-year-old Derby works the 2nd inning of home games, retrieving bats, bringing water to the umpires and posing for photos with fans.
Rookie joined his dad, Derby, as the third generation bat dog on Opening Day 2014. Rookie brings his energy to the game as he entertains the fans and retrieves bats during the 1st inning of Thunder home games.
Derby and Rookie were trained at Shelly’s School for Dogs at the Green Leaf Pet Resort and Hotel. They learned the everyday normal stuff, but to join the team for the AA Yankees affiliate, Derby and Rookie also needed specialized training in ignoring distractions, obeying commands and carrying a wooden baseball bat without leaving bite marks in front of a crowd of thousands. Their trainer, Shelly Leibowitz, still handles the pair for their game-day duties.
Off the field, Derby and Rookie live a comfortable life with the Thunder’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales & Partnerships, Eric Lipsman. We asked Eric a few personal questions about his celebrity pups:
How do Derby and Rookie spend their days off?
Derby enjoys belly rubs until he falls asleep while three-year-old Rookie prefers to run around the backyard.
What’s their favorite snack?
Do they have a favorite toy?
Derby’s go-to toy is, of course, a baseball. Rookie loves his bear, “Teddy.”
Do they have any favorite players?
Nope, they spread the love equally among players, trainers, and coaches. There is however one player who is particularly fond of the pair, #11 Shortstop Gleyber Torres. The #1 Yankee prospect makes sure he spends a little quality time with Derby and Rookie every chance he gets, he really loves them!
UPDATE: Derby passed away in January 2018. RIP sweet boy.