Tales of a Spectator Spectator

Watching the fans at a minor-league baseball game is just as fun as watching the players. From the silent statues to the loud cartoon caricatures, from the self- contained families and social groups to those who fully participate with the game, from the normal to the abnormal to the absolutely bizarre, the crowd at the stadium is a microcosm of the human race .

This world of characters can be categorized into three groups according to their interest in the game. These three main groups may then be divided into several subgroups.

The first group is the TBFs, which is short for "True Baseball Fans." These are mostly individuals who are not part of families or clubs who came to the game together. TBFs only leave their seats between innings and are, for the most part, completely focused on the game. They pay little attention to what goes on in the stands and couldn't care less for the promotional events. TBFs can be found within social organizations and families, but they come for one reason and only one reason: because they enjoy baseball and actually know the players.

Within the TBFs, you find the Statues, who are older men who sit still in their seats the entire game, uttering only the occasional cheer, boo, or "Call 'em, Blue!" They are old-school fans who could probably tell you about watching Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays play. Most Statues complain about how commercialized and business- oriented the game has become, and prefer the minor leagues to the majors. Statues are as much a fixture at the ballyard as the seventh inning stretch. It would take a wrecking ball to the stadium or a fire to move them from their seats.

In contrast to the Statues, the rabid Hecklers cannot resist a single opportunity to hurl insults at players, managers, coaches, and, most often, umpires. There are only a handful of Hecklers at most games, but there is one who has a reserved seat in the front row right behind home plate, ideal for giving the home plate ump a piece of his mind in the rudest manner imaginable. He doesn't speak very loudly, but if you're in his section, you hear his caustic remarks on every missed call. I sat behind this prototypical Heckler one game when the umpire made several calls unfavorable to the home team. His mouth ran nonstop, like a one-sided conversation with no response from the object of verbal abuse. (Umps must be required not to respond to fans unless their safety is threatened.) Count on Hecklers at any sporting event, although some youth leagues are cracking down on fans who don