It appeared for a moment on Tuesday that there was another “Hank” story unfolding for a Major League Baseball team during Spring Training, this time in Florida.
But in this case, pitcher Alex Cobb and the rest of the Tampa Bay Rays wanted nothing more than for the pup Cobb rescued from the streets of Port Charlotte on Monday to leave as quickly as possible.
Not because they didn’t love the little guy. Quite the contrary, they just really want him to be reunited with his real home team. And as of Wednesday afternoon, that reunion was looking more and more likely.
As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Cobb was able to identify the original owner of the stray dog through an embedded microchip, and that woman in Fort Myers — spring home of the Rays’ rival Red Sox — said she would try to contact the current owners of the two-year-old named Oscar.
But the story isn’t entirely over yet. Cobb and his bulldog, Axel, will continue to share their home with Oscar until the current owner is found. And from the sounds of it, should that not occur, this Hank replay might still be in play.
“We’re going to hang on to [him] for a while,” Cobb said. “That’s dangerous, though, because his personality is starting to grow on me.”
Cobb, one of the top starting pitchers on the Rays, earned himself a rare save on Monday by rescuing Oscar as he wandered in and out of traffic while Cobb was driving home from the team’s Spring Training facility.
Cobb saw the dog, which didn’t have a collar, pulled his truck over, and began a 20-minute chase — while wearing flip-flops.
“I was driving on one side, and he was running on the other side of the street with traffic,” Cobb told the Times. “I tried to get out and pick him up there, but he kind of got skittish and ran off. He was running right in the middle of traffic. I kind of tailed off him a little bit, let him do his thing, I didn’t want to scare him into traffic more.
“I went down some neighborhood streets and into some back yards. You could tell he was a little scared, eventually he just kind of finally cowered down and let me pick him up.”
Cobb brought Oscar, who weighs roughly 20 pounds and resembles Baxter from the Anchorman movies, back to his apartment, where he bonded with Axel. Cobb then called the local humane society, which informed him that no reports of a missing dog had come in.
Undeterred, Cobb and the Rays established an email account — firstname.lastname@example.org — and asked local reporters to help circulate a flier with the dog’s picture, description, and the email, in the hopes his rightful owners would come forward.
As the world knows after last season, Hank the Ballpark Pup was hit by a car before wandering onto the Brewers’ Spring Training facility in Maryvale, Arizona, and becoming a world-wide sensation. Could a similar outcome still unfold in Tampa?
If it does, it’s a good bet the Rays would name the dog “Zim” — after the recently deceased team consultant Don Zimmer, who was beloved by players and fans alike — and will be given a place to play near the Rays tank inside Tropicana Field, just like Hank’s doghouse at Miller Park.
And then we can all cheer him on and hope for a Rays-Brewers World Series.
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About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).