This Black Lab is the star of the Holly Springs Salamanders baseball team

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WTVD) -- There may be a ballpark full of dogs at the Holly Springs Salamanders 'Bark in the Park' night but there's one lab who sticks out.

"It's funny how excited people get over the dog retrieving the bat," said Sarah Wassilchak, a fan. "The home run is awesome but the dog retrieving the bat is more impressive."

Ripken -- a three-year-old black lab -- is turning heads not because of his friendliness or good looks -- but for his skills on the diamond.

"Of course we want everybody to get a hit but no matter what when Ripken runs out there and gets the crowd into it, cheering," said Chip Hutchinson the General Manager of the Salamanders. "Sometimes I have to see whether we get a hit or not but a lot of times they're just cheering for Ripken."

"I played college baseball," said Michael O'Donnell, the owner of Sit Means Sit dog training in Apex. "I never thought my dog would get me back into baseball but when he was eight weeks old I started having him collect the novelty bats and then as he got older and bigger we started moving him up to bigger bats."

Micheal teaches Ripken retriever drills and to always stay focused on him so he doesn't get distracted or runoff before it's time to get the bat.

"Ripken's the man," said catcher, Chance Bryant. "He's probably the best dog I ever met. It looks like he was born doing it, to be honest. He's great at everything. I've seen him doing tricks after tricks."

Just like the players, Ripken too has to stay loose between innings -- playing frisbee or visiting with fans.

"I get jitters," said O'Donnell. " It's crazy to think that my dog can draw that much excitement at a stadium and bring people to something that I enjoy, love and help the Holly Springs Salamanders get bigger. It's been incredible."
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