Like most theories of mine in the baseball world, I find that they come from some sort of story dealing with my father. I remember being pretty young, lets say 8, walking around the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Now obviously being the Minnesota State Fair brings in thousands upon thousands of people, its bound to bring in a few local celebrities.
I remember walking past a horse barn, or maybe the cow barn, or goat barn, not sure which, and my dad slowly turned around. My dad stopped for a moment, and continued walking. While continuing on, all he said was "Huh, neat." Now, me at this age, I'm sure I was pretty focused on some John Deere Tractors or something and completely oblivious to what he had just saw to garner such an exciting reaction out of him. While still walking, he just said to me, "That was Kent Hrbek." My face immediately lit up, wondering if we were walking through some sort of VIP section of the livestock area.
Such a moment seems pretty dull, though its had quite the impact on me. My father told me that very moment, "Well it would have been nice to shake his hand or something, but it looks like he's with his family and I don't want to bother him." I really didn't understand at that age, why with when being just inches away from a local hero, why we didn't engage him, why we weren't asking for autographs, why didn't we get a picture with him, why were we not yelling "OH MY GOD KENT HRBEK!"
"Jay, hes just a regular guy."
Simple thought that has stuck with me for quite some time.
Fast forward to June 9th, 2012. Setting: Special Forces Paintball, Rockford Township, Wright County.
I hate paintball. I especially hate paintball when its 90-some degrees and there is a twins game on. While in the parking area of this paintball compound, my buddies who had arranged this well timed match and I were standing around already complaining about the heat. In the lot there was also a large group of probably middle school aged kids and their fathers. A big white Cadillac Escalade had just parked about 10 yards from where we stood. The drivers door opened, and it seemed like a beam of sun had spotlighted the man exiting.
Cordell Leonard Koskie. Bam.
My immediate reaction was to turn to my friend, the only one there with an understanding of modern day sports and not World of Warcraft. "That's fucking Corey Koskie." My friend looked at me puzzled, and told me, "Yea right." I didnt even have a chance to argue, and all the little kids ran up to him "MR KOSKIE! MR KOSKIE!"
Of course the only reaction I could come up with was described on Twitter immediately.
Mr Koskie was indeed there. It was clear, also, that he was with his son. The other little kids and their fathers? All a group of schoolmates from Wayzata.
I'll be honest, after about an hour of playing around, I saw Mr. Koskie sitting by himself. It was damn hot, and it was clear he needed a break from running around the woods in full camo taking paintball shots from little kids. I walked over, quick stated, "Hey Mr. Koskie, big fan." I told him I knew he was with his boy, and didn't want to bug him. He immediately thanked me, and shook my hand. That was that. I was elated. As much as I would have loved to talk sabermetrics, his batting stance, his favorite color, or if he remembered how to spell Mientkiewicz, I knew I should keep it simple.
An hour later another big group of people showed up. While walking around in between rounds, a man from that group recognized Mr. Koskie.
"HEY COREY HOWS IT GOING?"
"HEY CAN YOU SIGN MY SHIRT?"
"WOW WHAT IF YOU GET SHOT IN THE HEAD WITH A PAINTBALL"
"HEY CAN I GET A PICTURE WITH YOU MY BROTHER IS NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS"
"HEY CAN YOU DO MY VOICEMAIL GREETING"
Ok, he didn't say the last one, but I figured that was next.
I felt bad just saying hi and shaking his hand.
Where do we draw the line with this stuff? What is appropriate?
I'm a firm believer that if you are at a game, or a function where there is a player representing the team, for the most part they are fair game to ask for autographs or pictures. How far do you push that though? Most players are great about being fan friendly, but after watching some fans get a little over-zealous, its hard to understand how they remain so calm about it.
Should I have the same feeling if they are away from work?
I know Lebron James is an extreme case, but there is a YouTube video of him buying a pair of sunglasses at a mall. He's absolutely bombarded with fans. Even with his entourage clearing a path for him, he still barely makes it out alive. I know one can argue, well whats what they want when the sign on, that's what they get paid the big bucks for. Is it right?
There's a wide spectrum of how to act around sports stars and celebrities. Do we in Minnesota flood one end of the spectrum just because we like to adhere to "Minnesota Nice?" It feels like the guys on the Twins really just like to be ordinary guys that play baseball for a living. I've heard a ton of players that come to Minnesota have a hard time leaving, and/or want to come back. Does how we treat them play a part in that?
In the past couple of months I've had the opportunity or chance to personally interact with not only Mr. Koskie, but Cory Provus, LaVelle, Dick+Bert, Butera, Burnett, and Robby Incmikoski. I've shook a couple hands, and that's it. That group of folks spans a pretty wide array of fame. I think Lavelle was surprised someone recognized him. I'm definitely the type of person that would love to just go and talk with anyone. I'm social. If I know someone I like saying hi. Problem is, I don't like bothering people. Even the Twinkie Town famous myjah was 15 feet from me, and I was like, shes twitter famous, I don't want to be rude and bug her by saying hi.
Being a celebrity is a burden sometimes. If when all of a sudden going to buy some sunglasses or spending the day with your family becomes difficult, I don't know if it would be worth it. I know its their choice, but I think it comes down to how people deal with those opportunities.
Was I wrong to shake his hand? Was he right to use that chance to get a local hero's autograph?
They're just regular guys right?