Banished superfan returns to SLO in new colors

April 8, 2016
Keith Franklin with a youth baseball team in "Section A"

Keith Franklin with a youth baseball team in “Section Anarchy”


Two years after bringing UC Irvine banners, costumes and masks to San Luis Obispo, superfan Keith Franklin is returning to Baggett Stadium to cheer on Irvine’s biggest rival. Franklin, 51, is now an avowed “anarchist” and a Cal State Fullerton fan.

Cal State Fullerton (17-11), the reigning conference champion and a 2015 College World Series participant, will take on Cal Poly (17-10) in a three-game series this weekend, weather permitting. Franklin, who is known in the college baseball world as “Superfan,” will lead the Titans cheering section.

Franklin's last appearance at Baggett Stadium

Franklin’s last appearance at Baggett Stadium

In 2014, CalCoastNews first reported the UC Irvine Athletic Department banished its biggest fan from the university’s ballpark. Franklin remained an Irvine supporter that year and traveled with the team on an improbable run to the College World Series in Omaha.

But, Franklin said getting kicked out of his home ballpark was like taking a knife in the heart. He waited for UC Irvine to reconcile with him, he said.

“For the first summer in quite a while I was a man without a team,” Franklin said. “When fall came and still no talks emerged, I sought sanctuary from the Cal State Fullerton baseball team.”

Last year, Franklin got off to a rough start as a Fullerton fan. On opening day, he sat among season ticket holders in Section K at Goodwin Field.

As occurred in Irvine, Franklin’s screaming agitated some Fullerton fans who are older and not very demonstrative. A verbal fight ensued, and event staff booted Franklin from his first game with his new team. At the end of the season, Franklin was arrested at a College World Series game.

But unlike in Irvine, Franklin found common ground with the Fullerton Athletic Department. That common ground is Section A, seating far down the right field line and a long distance from older, quieter fans.

When Franklin was sent into exile, Section Anarchy was born.

The now-Fullerton superfan transformed the nosebleeds into Section Anarchy, a place where fans scream “Winds of Mayhem,” wear gas masks and hang anarchy signs — rather than Ks — to tally Titan pitchers’ strikeouts. Section A has become the seating of choice for youth baseball teams, or young “anarchists” from across the state.

Franklin even managed to recruit a longtime Fullerton fan away from the season ticket area. Don Hudson, a season ticket holder for more than a decade, said he has loved watching baseball for 50 years but has never had as much fun as now.

Franklin and Fullerton fan Don Hudson

Franklin and Fullerton fan Don Hudson Photo credit: Jorge Lopez

“In typical Keith fashion, he turned an exile into Section A into making Section Anarchy the coolest place in the ballpark to watch games,” said Hudson, who will also be in San Luis Obispo this weekend.

Cal Poly fans seated across the ballpark on Friday will likely hear Franklin screaming about “The Gas Man” — Fullerton outfielder Josh Vargas or “The Paper Boy” — outfielder Scott Hurst, whose last name sounds like that of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.

Franklin nicknames all Titan players and makes musical and even literary references to them throughout the game. For instance, when first baseman Tanner Pinkston is at bat Franklin bursts into song. He sings Pink Floyd lyrics.

Franklin dons the gas mask, a Cold War leftover from the Czech military, when Vargas is at the plate. He does not plan on bringing the gas mask to San Luis Obispo, though.

Franklin wearing the gas mask alongside Joe Vargas, father of “The Gas Man”

Following Franklin’s last appearance at Baggett Stadium, Cal Poly’s events director said a couple fans complained that the superfan was being obnoxious, but he could not find anything the then-Irvine fan was doing wrong.

Cal State Fullerton is returning to San Luis Obispo for the first time since Cal Poly swept the Titans at Baggett Stadium in 2014. The 2014 series marked a high point for the Cal Poly program and a low point for Fullerton.

The series began with Fullerton losing its head coach, Rick Vanderhook, and losing the opening game 8-0. A walk-off double in the 13th inning of the middle game ended the only competitive contest of the series. The three-game set concluded with another shutout. Then Cal Poly vaulted up to its first and only week at No. 1 in the national rankings.

But, two years later, Fullerton is coming off a College World Series appearance and is currently sporting a five-game winning streak. Cal Poly has a young team that is currently on a three-game losing streak. On Tuesday, Cal Poly lost 10-1 to Santa Clara, a team with a losing record.

The first pitch of the series is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday. Game two is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, but rain could force a doubleheader on Sunday.

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I can’t believe I read this article.

Quite a character. Maybe Hillary could hire him to energize her campaign.

I think he belongs with the Trump campaign. Obnoxious is as obnoxious does.

Either one. Maybe he can go to the highest bidder.