There's nothing like a warm, fuzzy baseball story to liven up a cold, snowy day, which might help explain why more than a dozen reporters and photographers converged on Camden Yards yesterday, all hot on the trail of the Free Agent Fan.
Surely by now you've heard of The Fan -- a k a Virginia business management consultant Michael Volpe. He's the guy who got so fed up after his beloved team, the San Francisco Giants, traded All-Star third baseman Matt Williams that he sent the team a letter ending the relationship and declaring himself a free agent.
Volpe then wrote the 27 other major league teams, offering his loyalty to the one that could best answer his eight questions, including "What efforts will you make to improve your team over the years?" and "Which individual players, if any, on your team would you suggest I hold up as sports role models to my sons ages 9 and 12?"
Several teams responded with friendly letters, including the Houston Astros, the Florida Marlins, and, not to be outdone, our Orioles. But the Orioles took the game a step further yesterday, when The Fan was treated to lunch at the Camden Club with general manager Pat Gillick, got his own monogrammed jersey and was given a tour of the clubhouse.
All very nice. But everybody knows that you don't sign a free agent without checking a scouting report. What does the guy have to offer? Will he be a good fit? After all, a team can never be too careful when selecting its fans.
Just look at Yankee Stadium.
Career notes: Spent 36 years with the Giants. ... At height of career owned Giants sweater, watch, key ring, Starter jacket, running shorts, sweat shirt, six caps and 10 T-shirts. ... Once conducted business meeting on cellular phone from right field seats in Candlestick Park. ... Demonstrates commitment by arriving when gates open to watch batting practice. ... Treasures autographed Juan Marichal baseball card. ... Risked wrath of nuns in grammar school by listening to games on transistor radio in class. ... Shuns fantasy leagues ("I have a life"). ... Can instantly recall details of important Giants series during his lifetime (i.e., saw Giants lose 1962 World Series to Yankees while eating dinner off a Quickdraw McGraw TV tray). ... Has been known to watch videotaped Giants games on winter nights. ... Gets 120-channel cable package, including four sports channels. So ticked off over last baseball strike he stopped his Baseball Weekly subscription. ... Regularly drove seven hours round trip to see Giants play in Philadelphia. ... Snacks during games on hot dogs, peanuts and, if still hungry, ice cream.
Strengths and weaknesses: Passionate enough to stay loyal to losing team 3,000 miles away. ... Has been known to leave game early to get a jump on traffic. ... Chews out hecklers but has been known to shout "You missed the call!" at the umps. ... Buys program but doesn't keep score. ... Wants to send major league baseball a message that fans matter. ... Appalled by Roberto Alomar spitting incident. ... Can discuss obscure trivia (i.e. Eric Davis' medical history) with authority. ... Wouldn't let Orioles pay for lunch.
Pub Date: 1/10/97