HARWICH ─ If you've ever wondered what happens to all the baseballs launched over the fences at Whitehouse Field in Harwich, wonder no more. It's likely Walker has them. If not, he'll surely find them soon enough, along with lost tennis, lacrosse, and other balls at local fields.
Walker is a 10-year-old black lab owned by Bruce Young, an EMT with the Harwich Fire Department.
“My wife wanted a dog,” said Young. “He's a local dog from Hemeon's Farm. This is one of Brent Hemeon's dogs, a Cape Cod lab purebred.”
The ball hunting began shortly after Walker came home with Young, and has continued since.
“It's been going on for 10 years,” said Young. “You take him for a walk and he's in the bushes coming out with baseball or tennis balls or rubber balls. It doesn't matter. When they hit home runs or foul balls he's in the woods bringing them out.”
According to his owner, 55 baseballs will fit into a five-gallon bucket, and so far this year Walker has filled three buckets. Through the years it is estimated that he's collected nearly 2,000 balls of various types, but mostly baseballs.
“When the Mariners four years ago hit the home run record, he found five five-gallon buckets of baseballs up there,” Young said. “250 to 270 baseballs.”
While Young keeps a few around for Walker to play with – he's especially fond of tennis balls – the majority get donated: softballs to the Cape Cod Senior Softball League, and other balls wherever they're needed. The baseballs, however, have a special home.
“All the baseballs get donated to his favorite charity, Harwich-Chatham Little League,” said Young. “Those kids have a hard time raising money for baseballs, so they use them for batting practice.”
Back to those tennis balls.
“We live close to the Harwich Port Tennis Club,” said Young. “I got a call one day and they said, 'We have your dog.' They were teaching tennis to maybe 50 young kids and inside the tennis court was my dog with about 200 tennis balls, in his glory. He was having a blast. He couldn't decide which tennis ball to take, there were so many.”
When not fielding balls, Walker's favorite activity is swimming, regardless of the weather.
“It doesn't matter the weather or how cold it is,” said Young. “I've got pictures of him swimming with the ice floes at Skaket Beach.”
Walker is a true beach lover, though Young said summertime visits are difficult because of all the regulations, which is why they hang out at the ballpark.
“All the players like him up there,” said Young. “I've got two coaches living with me for the summer, Steve Gruenberg and Isaac Lippert, and they just love him.”
Young said Walker is truly “the best dog ever.”
“He's made kids that were afraid of dogs just love him,” he said. “That's how good a dog he is.”
This dog has been the best companion. He's always there, every day. When I get home from work at the fire department he's always there ready for a walk. He's just a good dog.”