We’ve all seen them. The fans that are a little too into the game or their team, or both. The guy who wears full team uniform to the games. The guy who wears a crazy combination of team colors and brings a big dog bone to a crappy bar to watch a preseason game by himself. The guy who yells at the refs/coaches/players from the top row and thinks they can hear him. The guy gets the official team uniform, hat and keeps score at a minor league baseball game. That’s the guy we are going to concentrate on today.
Why do minor league teams always seem to have such loyal, but incredibly strange fans? Is it because they usually play in small town and the residents have no other team to follow? Or is it because the games are usually cheap enough that white trash can afford to go to most games and sit close enough to the players that they feel like they are their friends? What ever the reason, when you go to a minor league baseball game, you are sure to find some weirdos who know way to much about the team. It’s not hard to spot them. They are usually sitting in the first row, keeping score, looking at the newspaper (why they read the mornings paper at night is something I’ve never figured out), wearing the teams colors, get way to upset over a call from the ump on balls and strikes and not only do they know all the players, even the ones just called up to the team, but they are calling them all by their first names and not even normal cheers like “Come on John!” but more like an encouraging conversation they want to have with the player; “Hey John, what do you say about a hit? You can do it!” or “That a boy John!”
This is what I ran until at the Aeros game last night. Sitting on row behind us, a few seats down to the right, was Mr. Classic Minor League Baseball Fan. I didn’t notice him at first but it didn’t take long to find him. After the leadoff hitter in the third inning (I don’t know who it was but I’m sure he could tell you), took a first pitch called strike, Mr. CMLBF let loose with a “Oh, come on! You got to be kidding me, Blue!” That’s when I turned around and saw him. Mr. CMLBF was in full force. He was wearing the official Akron Aeros hat and the special Aeros white vest jersey with purple pinstripes and still another Aeros shirt under the jersey.
As bad as that was, it got worse. Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about going to the Indians game and a few 40-some year olds had gloves sitting right next to us? Cardinal sin of baseball fans over 10, right? Well, you can throw all those unwritten rules out the window when it comes to Mr. CMLBF. He was a guy easily in his 40’s, wearing the team uniform, yelling at the umps, talking to the players and wearing a glove. To make matter worse (yeah, it somehow gets worse) we were sitting three rows directly behind home plate, Mr. CMLBF was in the fourth row. (I know the pitching coach so I get his seats whenever I want them. Not that that is cool since it’s only AA baseball but still.) When you sit directly behind home plate, there is a large net that basically keeps any ball from getting to you. When you sit that close, it’s even tough to get a ball to pop over the net since it would have to be hit so high and at the perfect angle. Because of this, it leaves Mr. CMLBF’s glove ultimately useless. Or so we thought.
Before I get to far, in addition to Mr. CMLBF behind us, in the first row was a group of people that also cared way to much about the game. However, they didn’t wear the uniforms, or yell at the players. They just kept score and talked amongst themselves about the players. Strange people but normal compared to Mr. CMLBF. They’ll come in to play later.
It was maybe the fifth inning, a moment that Mr. CMLBF will remember forever. I wasn’t paying attention to the game but I heard the ball hit and everyone starting mumbling and moving around. I looked up and the ball was popped up and coming down at an angle that looked like I might have a play on the ball. At first I thought it would land a few rows behind me but then it kept coming back towards the field. It was going to land pretty close to me. I didn’t know if I wanted to make the effort to reach over the seat and try and catch the ball on the fly or play the bounce. I decided on the bounce because I really didn’t feel like hurting my hand for a minor league ball.
The ball hit the seat directly behind me and the fell to the ground and rolled under my seat. As I reached down for it, I felt an elbow in my stomach and a glove on my hand. It was Mr. CMLBF and he wanted that ball. I continued to go for it even though I feared for my life. The ball was still moving around and I tried to kick it with my feet but Mr. CMLBF would have none of that. He quickly smothered it with his glove and gave me a few more shoves. I didn’t really want the ball but I didn’t want this guy to get it either. I looked up at him and he was looking down at the ball. I could see into his eyes and I could tell I wasn’t getting the ball. His eyes were the same look a rabid mother raccoon has when she feels someone is threatening her babies. I, for fear of my life, reluctantly pulled away and let Mr. CMLBF have the ball. My family all had a good laugh at the guy and even my mother got a jab in on how crazy the man was.
On top of all that, a little kid was in the mix too. I didn’t see him until I pulled away from the crazed fan but if I got the ball I probably would have given it to the kid because really, what am I going to do with the ball. Not Mr. CMLBF. He took the ball, put it in his glove, ignored all the boos and bad comments coming down on him and took his seat and was right back talking to the players and yelling at the ump.
Back to the guys in the first row. They turned around and said to Mr. CMLBF, “it’s about time.” I just said, to no one in particular, “I guess he really wanted that ball.” One of the guys in the first row said “He’s been trying to get one for a long time.” There are several things wrong with that picture. One, if this guy knows Mr. CMLBF has been trying for so long to get a ball, they both spend way too much time at Aeros games. And two, why are you really trying that hard for a ball from a minor league team?
Awe, the sights and sounds and characters that you can only experience at a minor league baseball game. Long live Mr. Classic Minor League Baseball Fan.