The Lexington Blowfish have a new team member who will serve as ball boy this season.
Make that ball dog.
Phisher, a 1-year-old Boykin spaniel (the official state dog of South Carolina), was scheduled to make his debut at the Blowfish season opener Thursday night at Lexington Blowfish Stadium on BallPark Road in Lexington. Throughout the season, Phisher will deliver water and balls to umpires during home games via a special backpack made just for him.
"Phisher has been announced as the new Blowfish director of on-deck-circle operations," said Blowfish owner Bill Shanahan.
"We were talking with Bill and told him we would like to maybe have a dog out at the park sometime; and the idea just came about to make Phisher the team dog and have him work as ball boy," said Rhonda Hollimon, practice manager at the animal hospital, who explained that Boykin spaniels are a retrieving breed.
Monday night was to be Phisher's practice run during the Blowfish alumni game, but that game was rained out. So Phisher was scheduled to make his debut Thursday night when the Blowfish played the Forest City Owls at 7:05 p.m. The dog has been in training with Lexington dog trainer Kirk Sharpe since December.
"He's a real smart dog," Sharpe said. "I'm sure the first couple of games will be a challenge until he learns the routine, but I think he'll be fine."
Most of the work Sharpe is doing with Phisher is obedience and hunting training.
"He's done really well with both of those," Sharpe said. "He's a typical male Boykin — full of energy."
In addition to delivering water and balls to umpires, Phisher will lead the Blowfish "Pooch Parade" around the bases every Tuesday as part of Dog Day Tuesdays, where dogs get in free with a paying human. Also on Dog Day Tuesdays, Phisher will promote Lexington County Animal Services, which will be in the stadium with homeless dogs that need adopting.
The hope is that later in the season Phisher also will retrieve bats for the team.