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'Cowboy' ropes in fans

August 23, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Eric Ware is not really a cowboy or a dancer but as the Hagerstown Suns "Scoreboard Cowboy," his cavorting at home games draws applause and attention, the team's marketing director says.

Ware, 20, said most Suns employees and fans don't know his real name, but mention the "Scoreboard Cowboy" and they know exactly who you mean.

In the middle of the third inning of each home game, the team's announcer directs fans' attention to the scoreboard area and tells them that the more they cheer, the longer Ware will dance.

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Then Ware, wearing overalls, spins around and tosses his cowboy hat in the air as he does what C.J. Johnson, the marketing director, calls "a poor attempt at a jig."

In interviews, Johnson and General Manager Kurt Landes struggle to describe exactly what it is that Ware does - Johnson says there is "lots of kicking and spinning around" - but they know the fans like it.

Even opposing teams sometimes stop to watch Ware dance, Johnson said.

Johnson said he is regularly asked, "What is with that guy?" and "Who is that guy?"

While the baseball card for the Scoreboard Cowboy says he resides in "parts unknown," Ware says he lives in Hagerstown and attends Hagerstown Community College.

Since he is a sports fan and is pursuing a career in sports journalism, Ware applied in March for the job to manually operate the team's scoreboard.

Landes and Johnson had additional plans for the position.

"We wanted to create a character rather than just an employee," Johnson said. "We wanted to add a fun human element."

About one week after he was hired, they settled on the idea of making the operator a cowboy.

Told he was going to have to be a "crazy" cowboy, Ware said, "Wow, that's me."

"I can be goofy sometimes," Ware said.

Part of Ware's job is updating the scoreboard. Ware and a guest scoreboard operator listen to the radio broadcast of the game and use walkie-talkies to make sure they are putting up the proper statistics, Ware said.

The Suns fans who attend games regularly eagerly anticipate Ware's third-inning performance, Johnson said.

When the announcer reminds fans that the more they cheer, the longer he will perform, "usually the crowd goes crazy," Johnson said.

Ware said he is enjoying the attention.

"I think it has gone pretty well. I have definitely benefited from it. Because of this I get to go on the radio a few times," he said. "I can't complain at all."

"Eric is very easygoing," Landes said. "He has been phenomenal. I think he loves his job and we have a lot of fun."

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