The newest member of minor league baseball team the Albuquerque Isotopes has never hit a ball, but he loves to run the bases — even though he can’t see them.
Stevie Wonder, a 6-month-old German shepherd mix, was adopted by Isotopes pitcher John Ely, who met the pup when the team volunteered at Watermelon Mountain Ranch, an animal shelter in Rio Rancho, N.M. The players were instantly taken with the dog and decided to give him a home at Isotopes Park.
“He won everyone over, so we all agreed to pitch in,” said Ely, Stevie’s primary guardian, in an interview with KOB4 TV. “Everyone loves him. The players, the coaches, clubhouse guys, everyone. Stevie’s way more popular around here than I am.”
Shelter workers said Stevie was a victim of abuse and was found wandering the streets. One of his eyes was so badly hurt that it had to be removed immediately, and his other eye was so infected that it had already gone blind, so veterinarians removed it as well.
"When Stevie came he was missing one of his eyes already. He just had his eye socket. Since he was in pain we did surgery and removed it," said Victoria Apodaca, a vet tech at Watermelon Mountain Ranch.
"On his other eye he had a cyst and it was glossed over. The doctor left it up to us to keep his eye, and as a team we decided to remove it because if he kept it, the cyst would erupt and cause infection and lots of pain," she said.
But being blind hasn’t kept Stevie from being a puppy. He’s friendly and playful and loves to run around the baseball field.
Isotopes outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez told KOB4 that the pup has already learned his way around the locker room, and although Stevie gets cautious when he walks onto carpet, he “goes crazy” when he feels grass under his feet.
Stevie does occasionally trip or walk into a wall, but for the most part, he’s doing well and making progress every day, according to Ely.
"He's got a great sense of smell and great hearing. So he kind of sniffs his way around and now it seems like he walks around without any issues at all. He's got no eyes, but he's about as happy as they get," he says.
Ely says that Stevie will eventually move to Chicago with him, but for now Stevie will make his home at the ballpark and enjoy his fame as the Isotope’s official mascot.