The Brewers staged a tongue-in-cheek -- or snout, as it were -- news conference in Milwaukee on Friday to dispel worries they had replaced their unofficial mascot with an impostor. Taking a break from running the business operations of a multimillion-dollar company, COO Rick Schlesinger presented microchip evidence, dental records and a notarized letter from a veterinarian as proof that the fluffy white dog at his side was indeed the same pup who staggered into Maryvale Baseball Park on Feb. 17, 2014.
"This is definitely the original Hank," wrote the vet, Dr. William S. Rice.
Thus ended a spoof worthy of fictional fireballer Sidd Finch. It was engineered by Travis Sarandos in a piece for the website BrewCrewBall.com that presented side-by-side photos of the scrawny, dirty Bichon Frise mix who wandered into the Brewers' Spring Training complex and gained worldwide fame after players and staff took him in, next to more current images of a dog who has been living in suburban Milwaukee in a home with three children.
The differences were so striking that Sarandos' explanation ultimately went viral:
This "new" Hank must surely be an imposter.
Was he convinced by Friday's evidence to the contrary?
"Yes, I acknowledge that Hank the Ballpark Pup is the one and only," Sarandos wrote in an email.
• Nightmare is over! Hank alive and well!
"Obviously, the whole thing was very tongue-in-cheek from the beginning. If my editor, Derek Harvey, didn't hate question marks in headlines, it would have read something to the effect of 'Was Hank the Ballpark Pup replaced by an impostor?'
"But this is the Internet, and lukewarm takes don't pay the bills. Hot takes don't either, but you know ..."
Since moving to Milwaukee, Hank has been living with Brewers vice president and general counsel Marti Wronski, her husband and three children. His rise to fame included being named "Dog of the Year" at the nationally televised World Dog Awards in 2015.
Hank merchandise continues to sell online and at Miller Park, with part of the proceeds benefiting the Wisconsin Humane Society.
To date, Hank has raised more than $300,000 for the Humane Society and other animal causes, and the figure is still rising.
The Brewers spun the "controversy" back to the message of pet adoption on Friday.
"We can see that Hank has changed a lot, and it's easy to understand why people might doubt [his authenticity]," said Wisconsin Humane Society president and CEO Anne Reed. "But we see, every day, incredible transformations of animals who have gone from homelessness into homes."
Sarandos was happy to see his spoof find a happy ending.
"It's been surreal and it's been a lot of fun," he said. "I'm glad the Brewers played along and were able to plug the Humane Society, which I think can do some good. I love dogs, I love Hank -- the one and only -- and I hope no one is too upset about this whole thing. It's early March in the first week of Spring Training for a team that doesn't have much in terms of on-field expectations this season. I think the fans are entitled to a bit of light-hearted silliness if they want it."
Now, about Elvis and the moon landing ...