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'A great addition to the team': Meet Michigan softball's squeaky mascot

Only recently has the world learned of “Hei Hei," the Michigan softball team’s mascot and rally chicken named for the character in the animated movie “Moana.”

Hei Hei (pronounced hey-hey) was once a pink chicken dog toy and, according to third baseman Taylor Bump, just appeared one day in the dugout earlier this season. It wears a Michigan beer koozie as a top and white Air Jordan-like “shoes," and otherwise dresses for the occasion.

The Wolverines are in Orlando, Florida, for the NCAA Regionals. Lexie Blair was interviewed while holding Hei Hei after Friday’s game in which she hit the winning two-run single in Michigan’s 2-1 victory over South Dakota State in Game 1. More importantly, she pointed out Hei Hei is now wearing a blue and white striped Speedo since the team is in the sweltering Florida heat.

“Hei Hei is getting the recognition he deserves,” Blair explained to The Detroit News earlier this week. “He's been around all season. The team loves him, and we take pride in him.”

Love might be a stretch, at least as far as Michigan coach Carol Hutchins is concerned. But she’s getting there.

“I am really developing a deep relationship with Hei Hei,” Hutchins said this week with an almost straight face. “He’s just been a great addition to the team. The kids love him. I will say that he talks a lot during the game. He's always right next to me in the dugout, and boy, you listen to that rooster-chicken do that chicken squawk for about two hours, you definitely need a big glass of water.”

Water. Got it.

“It keeps ‘em light, and keeping them light is going to be big this weekend,” Hutchins said of her players and their amusing mascot. “They're having fun, and I'm all for fun. I brought my squirt gun, too. I'm gonna shoot that bird at some point.”

While Hei Hei has been around the team this season, he made his television debut last weekend during the Big Ten tournament on Big Ten Network. Bump explained that Hei Hei keeps the players from focusing too hard on the outcome of games. Hei Hei was poking through the fence during Blair’s postgame interview Friday on ESPN Plus before a teammate handed it to her to hold during the interview.

There is growing debate, however, whether Hei Hei actually is a rooster, like the Hei Hei character in "Moana."

“Hei Hei is a chicken, but I'm not sure how he identifies, honestly,” Blair said, laughing. “It’s whatever Hei Hei wants to be.”

Twitter: @chengelis