I have said in the past that I fret about finding a story almost every day. Some days, I just don’t have the courage to walk up to someone to explain what I am doing and to find out if they are willing to talk to me. Other days, I am very confident. My reflection of my personal and current excursions reminds me of that old Fram Oil Filter commercial from about 20 years ago that reminds you to change your oil every 3,000 miles. The tag line is, “you can pay now or you can pay me later, but you are going to pay me…”, I might not be remembering it correctly and I’m not going to “Google”, either, because I like how I remember it, since it motivates me. I walked around the entire stadium, twice, looking for the perfect person to interview. I saw a guy walking around it a few times, also. He had a Kansas City Royals hat on, to be honest, I didn’t think he would be very interesting so I kept walking the first time I saw him in a walkway by home plate. But, for some reason, he was my first choice. A couple of innings later, when I was starting to get really worried that I wouldn’t find a story, I saw him again in the outfield area getting a hot dog. I thought I would ask, “what is up with the KC hat at a Pirates-Twins game?”
The guy that I thought would be boring to write about was not in the least! Bill Patton, 49, was from Harrisburg, PA. He was at the game with a bunch of guys that have been coming down to watch the Pirates for basically the last 15 years. He was wearing the KC hat because his wife is from there and is a Royals fan, (Bill that is still a poor excuse, even though you state that the Royals are your “American League” team now – But!). He jokes that the attraction between he and his wife was due to the fact that both were fans of “oppressed” baseball franchises. He met his wife through politics 15 years ago, they have been married the last 10 years.
Bill has been working in the Pennsylvania State legislature for the last 25 years, the last four as the Press Secretary to the Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. His main responsibilities are to insure that the Democratic Party views are heard. He speaks to reporters and to caucus members to make sure that everyone has the facts and are on the same page. Bill says, “it can be very frustrating since, like national politics, the state political arena in Pennsylvania is very partisan”. Currently, the House of Representatives in the State has 110 Republicans and 92 Democrats, so it is constant work to separate fact from the hearsay and spin, which is all over the news and Facebook. Bill joked, “you can’t put a partisan spin on baseball, everyone can see what is happening on the field for themselves…”
A graduate of Penn State, with a degree in Political Science, he attends one or two football games a year. He knew immediately that I was going to ask him about the “Sandusky” scandal. Bill shared that there was a lot of soul searching that went on, and stated that most people think that the football program is suffering for something that was outside of football. The ‘situation’ has been very interesting for the state and university, changes have taken place and everyone is ready to turn the page.
I asked Bill why he is a fan of the Pirates and not the Phillies. Harrisburg is a little closer to Philadelphia, but essentially it is between both cities. He explains that it is because of growing up in the mid to late 70’s – the culmination of the World Series in 1979. The “We are Family” Pirates team of Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bert Blyleven and Kent Tekulve . It was at the height of disco music, Sister Sledge’s hit song, “We Are Family” became the team’s theme song as 39-year-old NL MVP Willie Stargell slugged the way to a championship. The Pirates rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series to beat the Orioles. Stargell was also World Series MVP, hitting three home runs. That was a year and team that will go down in team history as one of franchise’s best.
The love of baseball runs deep for Bill as he explained it is one place that there is bipartisan support for the Pirates and Phillies, it is nice to put party affiliation aside and just enjoy the teams. Bill told me he always has the game on when the Pirates are playing and he gets over to Pittsburgh one or two times a year during the season. He is able to catch 15-20 games a year of the different teams that play in the area. Harrisburg is located within easy driving distance to Baltimore and Washington D.C., also. So he is very lucky to be able to get his MLB fix easily with the four teams close by.
In addition to the majors, there are also eleven minor and independent league teams within easy driving distance from Harrisburg. The Washington Nationals’ Double A affiliate is the Harrisburg Senators. During a long legislative session last year, Bill needed to unwind one night and walked over to a Senators game. He was there by himself and he ran into the Republican House Leader, who was also there alone. They watched the game together and had a great conversation about baseball, he said it was very enjoyable. That is what he loves about baseball in that the sport brings people together, to common ground, and removing the open drawbridge of partisan politics.
I told Bill that I was ranking all the spring training stadiums I have attended. Bill let me know he has been to a bunch of Spring training stadiums to watch the different teams over the years. His favorite stadiums are McKechnie Field of the Pirates and Bright House Field of the Phillies, spoken like a true politician! Thank you for speaking to me Bill (and not being boring). I enjoyed the conversation and if we could all get along like we do when we are rooting on our favorite baseball team, there is hope that we can do it politically!
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