Monday, January 21, 2008

Kurt's big night

I used to think I was an eccentric baseball fan. I figured my passion was such that it made me stand out from the crowd, call unnecessary attention to myself.

Well, guess what? Leave it to a friend to put me to shame.

Kurt Pickering e-mailed back in December. He was being honored at a banquet in Nashville and wondered if any of his friends wanted to attend. I found out it was about baseball and said, "Sure." Then I got the details.

Kurt used to work and live in the Music City. That meant he owned season tickets -- one gold seat, in fact -- to the Nashville Sounds games. Kurt is a longtime baseball fan who turned his back on the big leagues after the 1994 strike canceled the World Series. He then discovered the joy of minor league baseball and never looked back.

Kurt's job took him to a suburb of Atlanta early last year. To most people, this would mean the end of the baseball tickets.

Not Kurt, though. He kept them.

He worked it out with his boss to take leave on the Fridays the Sounds were playing in Nashville. And, thanks to those weekend homestands, Kurt Pickering drove 4 hours (each way!) and made it to exactly half of the games.

Geez. Half the time I'm daunted by traveling a mere 20 minutes up to Kodak for the Smokies games. Here Kurt thinks nothing of 4 hour jaunts back to Music City.

So flash forward to last Friday night. A group of Nashville baseball enthusiasts hold a banquet every year. The Old Timers, as they call themselves, have been meeting for 70 years. They award scholarships to local high school baseball players and invite a baseball-related speaker.

They also give away a Fan of the Year award. Who better than the Sounds' biggest fan?

I was able to work it out to drive down for Kurt's big night. It was fun.

What better way to warm up these cold winter nights than with thoughts of endless summer afternoons, double plays, the 2-1 pitch and all things baseball. That it served as an excuse to get caught up with old friends made it even better.

Congrats, Kurt. You're the best fan I know.

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