Good riddance. Sure, there’s something sweet about little kids looking for souvenirs from their big league heroes—-go back to the Coca-Cola commercial with Mean Joe Greenein the ’70s for proof.
But that’s Hollywood. In the real world, ever since the advent of eBay, things ain’t so quaint.
Sadly, there are at least as many adults as children looking for keepsakes at any athletic gathering. And there is nothing I’ve encountered in the sports realm more creepy than the grownup souvenir hound.
I’m still freaked out by the memories of an exhibition baseball game at RFK Stadium in April 1999, at the peak of Mark McGwire‘s steroid-fueled popularity. Before the game, hundreds of folks old enough to know a lot better screamed at McGwire to give them an autograph or a ball or anything.
There was no joy in Mudville. McGwire had no chance to make everybody happy. The scene was utterly grotesque.
I showed up early to the Nats/Pirates doubleheader last weekend, and there was a crowd of mostly Pittsburgh fans in the left field bleachers hoping to watch warmups.
A lot of youngsters were leaning over the outfield fence to gawk at and chat up the visiting pitchers and catchers and coaches as the players loosened up.
But in the middle of the pack was one middle aged guy wearing an all-Pirates ensemble and a baseball glove and a scary expression. He wasn’t at all happy. He held his glove up high and yelled at the players to throw him a ball while sporting an angry look of entitlement.
I could tell from his behavior that this was not a one-off event for this dude; I’d bet it’s a lifestyle. I’m sure he has a clothing ensemble in the colors of every ballclub to help in his souvenir hunts, and shows up to batting practices at parks everywhere competing for balls with kids 40 years or more his junior.
He scared me. I’m sure there are guys like him in every town. I think they’re going to have to find a new hobby.