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Aviators’ popular bat dog set to retire April 19

Finn the Bat Dog has reached the bottom of the ninth inning in his career with the Aviators.

The bat-retrieving black Labrador, who turns 12 next month, has retired from his duties with the Triple-A team. His final game is April 19, when the Aviators host the Tacoma Rainiers at Las Vegas Ballpark.

“He’s been instrumental with us. Guys love interacting with him pregame, getting extra pets in,” Aviators senior director of sponsorships James Jensen said. “We wanted to do something nice and send him off the best as we can.”

The Aviators are giving away Finn the Bat Dog jerseys to fans at the game, and the pooch will throw out the first pitch before he performs one final time. He also is expected to pose for photos with fans at the game.

Finn joined the club in 2016, when it was still known as the 51s and played at Cashman Field. He would appear at a handful of games but quickly became a fan favorite, galloping toward the batter’s box and picking up each bat before returning with the lumber between his teeth.

In 2018, Finn and his trainer, Fred Hassen of Sit Means Sit dog-training company, started to perform the first few innings of every game. They added more tricks to their repertoire, including a model fire hydrant that Finn perched atop, along with fences and chairs he would jump over.

Finn also brought water to umpires on hot days, although one umpire on opening day in 2019 famously wasn’t a dog lover. He tossed away a leftover bat before Finn could pick it up and was booed mercilessly by the crowd at Las Vegas Ballpark. Video of the moment went viral and was featured on numerous sports TV, radio shows and podcasts.

“Nothing tops that,” Jensen said. “We got calls about that.”

When the Aviators moved from Cashman Field, Finn was given his own locker room at Las Vegas Ballpark equipped with a TV and his own shower to keep him cool in the summer. Players from both teams often pet Finn during pregame, and Jensen recalled former major leaguer Jayson Werth tossing him a Frisbee.

“We joke around Las Vegas Ballpark is the house that Finn built,” Jensen said.

Finn was joined by Lambo, a chocolate Labrador retriever, on a part-time basis in 2021 and full time in 2022. They split bat-dog duties, with one staying by Hassen’s side while the other retrieved the bat.

Lambo is now with the Triple-A Reno Aces. Jensen said the Aviators will not have bat dogs this season but will continue to work with Hassen to have them in the future.

“I feel like we were a trendsetter with Finn,” Jensen said. “It’s funny how many people would travel to Vegas just for the bat dogs. They got a louder applause than the players sometimes.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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