First there was Toto. Then Lassie. And now, introducing Jake, the Diamond Dog, the brilliant and quite adorable golden retriever who will make his first appearance at Spirit Communications Park on Thursday, June 7, when the Columbia Fireflies take on the Charleston RiverDogs.
He’ll reprise his role the next night — Friday, June 8 — for the showdown between the Fireflies and the Augusta GreenJackets. That game will end with a fireworks display.
Jake is no average dog. Throughout both games, he will deliver water to parched players and umpires, entertain the crowd with acrobatic Frisbee catches and even take over as “bat dog,” picking up used bats from the field.
He’ll be on hand to meet his fans, too, as well as to sign “pawtographs.”
“He’s a great showman,” says his owner and trainer Jeff Marchal. “He loves his fans.”
Just don’t bring him any treats: One of the ways Jake stays so healthy on the road is by sticking to an all-dog-food diet.
And just how did Jake begin his career as the world’s most adorable baseball player?
It all started at the drive-through convenience store where Marchal was working in the late 1980s.
“I trained my dog to take the money from the customers,” he says. “He got so good at it the two of us could work both sides of the window.
"Word got out, and people would line up on the days he worked just to see him.”
After several years working at the store, Jake — and Jeff — got his big break when a team mascot came through the line and thought the team would be a hit on the diamond.
“He’s phenomenal,” says Abby Naas, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Fireflies. “We’re thrilled to have him in Columbia.”
And Jake's not the only dog on local baseball diamonds. Phisher, a 1-year-old Boykin spaniel (the official state dog of South Carolina), debuted at the Lexington Blowfish season opener on May 31. Owner Bill Shanahan went so far as to name Phisher "the new Blowfish director of on-deck-circle operations."
Like Jake, Phisher delivers water and balls, and Blowfish organizers plan that he'll learn to retrieve bats as well.
While Phisher is a local, Jake and Jeff travel the country, delighting fans wherever they go. They'll be in Columbia for two games with the Fireflies.
Jake the Diamond Dog’s appearance is just one special event the Fireflies have in store for fans during June.
Saturday, June 9: Country music classics will fill the stadium for Country Night.
Sunday, June 10: Team members — possibly the next Major League Baseball stars — will be on hand before the game to sign autographs; cool off during the game in the Splash Zone.
Thursday, June 21: Enjoy Thirsty Thursday drink specials (half-priced beer and fountain drinks, including $1 Bud Light drafts at the Budweiser Bar and Center Field Concourse) then make music with free kazoos or your own musical instruments.
Friday, June 22: Meet Braves legend Dale Murphy; stay for Friday night fireworks.
Saturday, June 23: Get inspired by "Jurassic Park," and dress up in your T-rex best for Dino Night!
Wednesday, June 27: Dogs are welcome on the berm for Wag Along Wednesday; be sure to drop by the SQ Rescue booth to find a dog of your own, or offer support for the organization.
Thursday, June 28: Get in touch with your inner Hulk Hogan on this pro wrestling-themed night; drink specials for Thirsty Thursday run all night long.
Friday, June 29: Help Fireflies mascot Mason celebrate his birthday in style; stick around for Friday night fireworks.
If you go
Tickets for Fireflies baseball start at $5. Home games are played at Spirit Communications Park, 1640 Freed St. For game times and to order tickets, visit columbiafireflies.com.