OCONOMOWOC — In the 1997 movie “Air Bud,” Buddy the golden retriever is allowed to take to the court and play for the Timberwolves basketball team after the referee made the pivotal call, “Ain’t no rule says the dog can’t play basketball.”
Flash forward 25 years, and fans and players alike are finding out that at Wisconsin Brewing Company Park, there ain’t no rule says a dog can’t be on the field.
Lake Country DockHounds bat dog Colt has become a star at the ballpark this summer, as people throughout the stadium delight in watching Colt race out onto the field and retrieve bats discarded by DockHounds players. After cheers from the fans start to die down following a Lake Country hit, it’s not uncommon to hear a chorus of calls ring out around the stadium.
“Look!” “Is that a dog out there?” “Look he’s getting the bat!” “Oh my gosh that’s so cute!” “Oh look at that, that’s so cool!” But Colt is not distracted by the calls from the stands. When he’s on the field and dons his Lake Country DockHounds vest, he’s all business.
It just so happens that it’s a job he loves doing.
“Before we started, there was another dog in a different state doing it, and I was like, ‘I bet you he could do it,’” Colt’s trainer Kate Bucci said. “We tried it one time and it stuck. From that point on he was good to go. So we just kept doing more and more games, and then he got more and more popular, and we just kept doing it because he loves doing it.”
Bucci, the owner of KC-K9 Academy Dog Training, said she first got Colt when he was 4 months old, and he first began acting as a bat dog when he was 3 years old. Now at age 7, Colt was already a seasoned pro before Bucci reached out to the Dock-Hounds to see if they were interested in his services.
“We’ve been bat-dogging for another team, and when this team created itself it was very close to home,” Bucci said. “So I reached out and said, ‘Hey, this is what we do for another team. You guys are really close to home, is this something that you would be interested in?’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, for sure,’ and it kind of just took off from there.”
And according to Lake Country Manager, Jim Bennett, Colt has been a hit among his players.
“Colt is fun,” Bennett said. “My first question was, ‘Is he going to put a mark in the bat with his teeth?’ But Colt, man, he’s amazing. … It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to have that in our dugout.
“There is nothing negative about Colt being in there. As a manager, I’m always looking for (the negative) but it’s all positive for Colt. The guys love him. They’re always petting him, or they might rub their bat on his back for good luck or something. But we all embrace Colt and it’s been awesome having him.”
Bennett added that this was the first time in his career that he had ever had a bat dog working out of his team’s dugout, although he has seen other teams use one before. And while that’s likely the case for many on the DockHounds, not only has outfielder Jake Snider worked with a bat dog before, Snider found himself reunited with a familiar face playing in Oconomowoc.
“He’s awesome. I actually had Colt (as bat dog) when I was in college playing summer ball in Madison in the Northwoods League,” Snider said. “Colt’s awesome and I love having him out every day.”
But even without a previous connection, the players on the team have very quickly enjoyed Colt’s presence in the dugout.
“It’s cool to hear the fans’ reaction every time he runs out there to go grab a bat,” Lake Country outfielder Lamar Briggs said. “It’s always pretty cool to (see). They love him. Everybody loves him.”
Colt and Bucci don’t work at every DockHounds home game, but there are still opportunities for fans to see the duo at the ballpark this season. According to the DockHounds’ website, Colt’s next appearance will be on July 22 when Lake Country opens up a three game series against the Lincoln Saltdogs. From there, Colt will make five more appearances this season on Aug. 5, 9, 19, 26 and 28.
When the pair aren’t out at the ballpark on gameday, Colt serves as a demo dog to help promote Bucci’s Hartland- based business.
“He’s been my demo dog for years when I worked elsewhere, and now he’s our main demo dog for my company as well,” Bucci said. “We (KC-K9 Academy Dog Training) do general obedience, normal everyday behavior training. We do puppy raising, we do breed consultations if someone is looking to get a new puppy, nutrition training — we kind of do everything.”
Colt declined to answer any questions asked of him, although he did wag his tail when asked if he was a good boy.