If it’s true that a fan is born every night at a ballpark, it’s probably also true that enemies are made as well. The other side of supporting your favorites is often times attacking their rivals, and with the Cubs in town for a three game set at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals, heroes and villains alike are sure to be created for today’s fans.
It’s important to remember, though, that those characters on the field were once fans themselves.
Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant. Javier Báez. Kyle Schwarber. These players – and plenty others – will likely hear variations of their names bellowed from the stands with a hearty insult close behind. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that their opponents were fans themselves. Some of the St. Louis Cardinals had their own distastes for the players they grew up watching.
With no hesitation, John Brebbia had his answer. “Jeter. Yeah. Jeter bugged me.” Brebbia grew up in Sharon, MA, a suburb of Boston. As a Red Sox fan coming of age in the late nineties and early aughts, the battles with the Yankees were fierce. Now a professional himself, Brebbia tempered his memories with respect.
“He was so good. He just always did well. Plus, you know, I was a Nomar Garciaparra guy. Jeter was the opposing shortstop.”
Luke Weaver grew up in DeLand, FL, not far from Orlando. He too expressed a slight admiration for the Red Sox, but geography primarily made him a Tampa Bay Rays fan. The Rays lack many natural rivals, but that stop Weaver from picking his non-favorites.
When asked about players that bugged him, Weaver laughed, hesitated, and said, “One pops in my head for some weird reason – Nyjer Morgan. It was always just so painful to watch him.”
While it was unclear whether Weaver’s adult memories of his childhood tastes had been partially shaped by his contact with Chris Carpenter – himself no Nyjer Morgan fan – Weaver did offer his requisite professional courtesy before reflecting unflatteringly on an alter ego.
“Not to say he’s not a good guy,” Weaver said, “but just his alter ego and everything. Tony Plush.
“It made me cringe every time.”
Greg Garcia laughed about his young life as a Padres fan as he defended his decision not to keep hatred in his heart. “I’ve never been that kind of fan where I hated someone on the other team,” he said.
“I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t spiteful when I was a little kid. I was a pretty happy kid. No hating.”
If Greg Garcia grew up in Southern California free of hate, Sam Tuivailala grew up in Northern California with a touch less discernment. A Giants fan who carried on the proud tradition of opposing the Dodgers, he also failed to name a player he disliked. Instead, it was everyone in Dodger blue.
“I didn’t really look into what players were on the Dodgers,” Tuivailala said. “When you were growing up you just didn’t like the Dodgers at all.”
Tuivailala, ever a devoted fan as a child and an opposing player as an adult, said, “it was always just ‘Beat LA.’ That was pretty much the chant. Kinda is actually the same thing [now], I’m pretty sure.”
Perhaps LA later. For Cardinals fans, it’s Chicago now. Somewhere in the Busch Stadium bleachers or at home on a couch, Tommy Pham or Luke Voit or Austin Gomber is going to create a devoted follower for life.
At the same time, Albert Almora or Ian Happ will create someone who thinks they’re a super villain.
Who’s to say who’s right? Those impressions can last a lifetime.
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