On Deck with Colt the Bat Dog
If you collect baseball cards, chances are you haven’t been on the lookout to score the hard-to-find rookie card for a fast, energetic brunette named Colt, but maybe it’s time for that to change. Colt isn’t technically a baseball player, but he does have his very own baseball card for his role as Bat Dog for the Madison Mallards, a collegiate-level summer baseball team in Madison, Wisc.
Colt is a four year old Border Collie who dresses out with the Mallards for every home game in his custom-made uniform -- complete with Rex Specs to protect his eyes from the dust off the field -- to help pick up the bats from home plate and bring them back to the dugout after each Mallard at-bat. He waits, perched and vigilant, in his spot while each player takes his turn against the pitcher, and if the batter hits the ball and runs, Colt springs into action to run out, grab the bat, and return it to the team.
Colt’s human, Kate Bucci, is an elite dog trainer and owner of KC-K9 Academy who saw an opportunity for her talented pup during a Bark in the Park event. In 2016, the Mallards hosted an event allowing ticket holders to bring their dogs to that day’s game, and Kate attended as a vendor to gain exposure for her training business. As luck would have it, the sponsor for the event was a local pet store who knew and use Kate’s services, and they were able to connect Kate directly to the team so she could propose her idea.
Colt had always been Kate’s “demo dog” for obedience, as he is extremely high-drive and an excellent student, and after they all tested the waters by having him put on a frisbee fetching exhibition on the field, it was clear he was a hit with the crowd. The Mallards asked Colt and Kate to become part of the on-field entertainment with their frisbee act for the following season, during which time she trained him with the bat as well. Kate says that it was easy to teach him. She started out playing a simple game of fetch with a bat, then had someone pretend to hit a ball and drop the bat near him, and then finally backed him up the distance from home plate to the dugout to chase the bat down. Luckily he was a natural, and last season, in 2018, Colt was called up to the “majors” to join the team and put his talent on full display as an official Madison Mallard.
Colt was unique from the start. He was the only puppy in his litter, which is a rare occurrence for dogs, and for Kate that just showed how special he really is. Since then, he has done everything from modeling to professional disc to annual biathlons alongside Kate, and he has even dipped his toes into the world of field hockey, trying his hand -- ahem, paws -- at life as a Puck Pup. Currently, he is the only Border Collie serving as a Bat Dog in the country, and there are only a couple of other dogs doing this type of work.
For her part, Kate is the only female trainer teaching Bat Dogs in the United States. Kate got her start with dogs early in life, as her mother was an AKC Toy Poodle breeder, and she grew up with those dogs surrounding her, fostering a love for pups from the beginning. When it came time to save money for college, Kate knew she wanted to work with dogs, so she became a groomer. She enjoyed grooming, but it is incredibly hard on the body, so she started a side business training to see how it would go. After a few years, she was so successful that she was able to make dog training her full-time job, joining the top training company in the country and eventually establishing her own thriving business.
According to Kate, Colt absolutely loves the work of being a Bat Dog, and in fact it serves as even more training for him. With all the audience noise of a ballpark -- especially for a popular guy like Colt -- each at-bat is an opportunity for him to practice ignoring the distractions around him and stay focused on the task at hand. Fortunately, no one needs to worry Colt’s average, as he is extremely diligent and successful at his job, and with baseball season just around the corner, it’s time to break out the Cracker Jack and root (root, root) for our favorite part of the home team, Colt the Bat Dog. Play ball!