Winning over baseball fans one strike at a time

I hated baseball.

I really did.

As a youngster growing up in rural Colorado, we did not have a major league team to follow. This was long before the Colorado Rockies came along. My parents got my younger brothers and me to play little league baseball. We mostly had fun, but I had a hard time getting into the game. I liked getting my turn to bat, but I hated taking to the field. I have very poor eye-hand coordination, so I never once caught a ball. I have weak arm strength, so I couldn’t throw well. I won’t even bother to mention my blazing speed (meaning I usually burned out before I reached my destination).

Whenever we divided for teams in any sport, either in school for PE or at home in the neighborhood, not only was I the kid who got picked last, but team captains would often barter other players if the other team would agree to take me. Yeah, that’s how I rolled.

Not only did I hate baseball, but I hated all sports, especially football. My dad was a big Broncos fan, as was everyone else in our community. In those days the Denver Broncos were the only show in town. The first time I actually watched the Broncos play was Jan. 15, 1978, when they lost Super Bowl XII to those dastardly Cowboys. I got caught up in the Super Bowl hype and wanted to see what it was all about. I have been a Broncos fan and a Cowboys hater ever since.

A year and a half later a new football coach arrived at Faith Baptist School, where I was attending junior high. Being the biggest kid in the eighth grade, he made me join the junior high team. We played six-man flag football. I learned as a lineman that I didn’t have to worry about handling the ball. I could just go out and hit people and have fun. All of a sudden I was an instant football fan. I couldn’t get enough of it. I went on to play football at Niwot High School and even joined the track and swimming teams.

Still, I didn’t care about baseball.

It wasn’t until 30 years ago when I graduated college and moved to Minnesota that I got my first real taste of professional baseball. My now former in-laws took me to see the Minnesota Twins play the Oakland A’s on Aug. 9, 1987. The Twins won 7-5 and went on to win the World Series that year. Just as I had 10 years earlier with the Broncos, I got caught up in the excitement of the Twins’ run through the Series and became not only a Twins fan, but finally a baseball fan.

By the time the Twins won their second (and last) World Series in 1991, I had moved to North Carolina. It was from there in 1993 that I watched as the Colorado Rockies were birthed. Three years and a broken marriage later, I was back in Colorado and as one of my jobs between journalism jobs, I worked as a ticket taker for the Rockies. They quickly rose to become my favorite baseball team. In 2005, however, I moved to Texas. Three years later we moved to the Houston area. I’ve been to several Astros games, mostly as a photographer. I’ve become an Astros fan, but they are far from being to me what the Rockies are.

There is one team, however, that I’ve come to love more than any other team in professional baseball. Six years ago the Sugar Land Skeeters started playing ball in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. We took our family to the inaugural game. For the first four years we went on average to about a half-dozen games a season. Last year, however, was the proverbial game-changer.

As the editor of the Fort Bend Star, I was able to assign myself to cover a lot of Skeeters baseball. Because the newspaper has season tickets, I’ve been able to take my family to a lot of games. Actually, last year I took my wife to a lot of games. We dragged our two teenage boys kicking a screaming. They, like their father before them, are not sports fans. At least that’s what they claim.

As a member of the Skeeters press corps, I had an insiders perspective on their championship season last year. As I got to know some of the players, front office staff, game day crew and fellow fans, I found myself feeling like a part of the Skeeters family. We all feel that way. It’s kind of like being in an episode of “Cheers” where everybody knows your name. We really feel liked and appreciated whenever we’re at Constellation Field.

Part of that hospitality comes from Manager Gary Gaetti. He is the only manager the Skeeters have had. He was also on that Minnesota Twins team in 1987 that won me over to baseball. (As a side note, he hit a solo home run in that first game I attended.) I consider it a huge honor to call him my friend. I have a deep respect for him and what he has accomplished in his baseball career. He is a great judge of character and skill and knows what it takes to win.

Having been a press photographer, ticket taker and fan at several levels of baseball, I can honestly tell you that the most fun and best times I’ve had with the sport have been at Constellation Field. The Skeeters organization is the best when it comes to hospitality and providing a great fan experience.

Now, at this point I have to shift gears and share a proud father moment I experienced a couple weeks ago. Colton, my youngest son, got his braces off and chose for his retainer the color of blue. Embedded on the retainer is a Denver Broncos logo! In addition to that, I’ve noticed that my boys have quit trying to beg off of going to Skeeters games. In fact, I’ve spied them looking up from their phones and actually getting into the action on the field. There may be hope yet to win over these kids who once claimed to hate baseball. Why not? It worked for their old man.

Let’s go Skeeters!

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