As told by Michael O’Donnell, Ripken’s owner.
How was the big debut night?
We were nervous at first, or, I was very nervous, but he’s done this quite a bit. He was the bat dog for the Holly Spring Salamanders to start, and then we got called up last year to the Durham Bulls, but then, with COVID, the season got canceled. So we’ve been waiting for the opportunity to get on the field, and everything went exactly how we planned. On the first night, no mistakes. He jumped right out and fetched every bat perfectly.
Where was Ripken when he first found out that he had been called up?
We were probably at work. We own Sit Means Sit dog training in Apex and so he goes to work with me every day and we work on a little bit of everything, from his retrieving drills to his obedience. We were probably sitting in the office, working together.
What is his training regimen?
He wakes up and eats breakfast. And then we go outside. I have an acre that we can do a lot of retriever drills in. We set up bumpers all over the yard and I work on teaching straight lines and making sure he’s not getting distracted by anything.
I also like to add a lot of distractions. I’ve had kids in the neighborhood come out and play Wiffle ball and stuff. They’ll drop the bat and I’ll practice with him to go get their bat while they’re playing with a ball and running around screaming. Every day is a little different. I take him out in public and make sure he stays with me and ignores the people until I say, ‘Go say hi.’ He likes to go to Lowe’s quite a bit.
Does Ripken have any sports heroes or favorite baseball movies?
Obviously, Bull Durham is going to be one of his favorite movies, because he’s always dreamed of being part of that team. Cal Ripken would be his baseball hero, which is who he’s named after—Cal Ripken, Jr.
Does Ripken have any advice for dogs with dreams of the minor leagues?
Making sure you’re ready for all the attention, all the love and pets is a big thing. But staying focused and working hard every day would be his advice. I think he stays focused on his job and his task when he’s out at work, but he also knows how to have fun when we’re off work, as well, and enjoys a good fire pit on Friday night.
That’s great. It’s important to unwind.
Yeah! But when he’s in work mode, he’s super driven and focused on what he’s doing at that moment.
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