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ACT II: THE SWING // Diamonds in the stands

Published Jul. 6, 2006

There's something about baseball, something unexplainable, that keeps them coming to the park.

"I just like watching baseball," says Brad Fender, 14. "There's something about baseball that I love."

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Inside the stadium gates you can hear Bo Green above the din. A booming baritone that shoots through your veins and gives you goosebumps. He's a fan of the fans.

"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey! Get the lemonade! Ice cold! Fresh squeezed!"

"Show me the money!" he screams.

Bo is the best. Of the four vending carts owned by Sunshine Concessions, Bo will make the most money. Today and every day.

"You gotta get loose. Just have fun with it, you know," he says. "Shake shake. Make make. The customer is gonna be right no matter what you're going to do."

Lemonade is not an easy sale with beer and soda so readily available, yet Bo cunningly convinces fans to toss $2 his way.

"If you don't buy it now you'll buy it later when the sun hits your neck," Bo tells those who pass by his cart.

Lots of people don't pass. They stop. They chat. They buy. It's impossible to ignore the tall, slender lemonade seller.

No one has ever timed him, he says, but he's able to squeeze the lemons and concoct a sweet elixir so fast that the three fabric bracelets on his right wrist blur as he slices, juices and pours.

Bo is a 36-year-old Dunedin native. For four years he sold lemonade at his hometown Toronto Blue Jays stadium.

Bo is a baseball fan. He produces a bright red Phillies cap to prove it, slapping the cap backwards across his braided hair. He doesn't have a concrete reason for liking baseball, he just does.

When the national anthem begins, Bo steps to the side of his cart, removes his hat and places his right hand over his heart.

He does this even though no one is around to see it.

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A few feet from Bo Green the Mighty Lemonade Machine sit Wilbur and Janice Snapp.

Wilbur, 77, is a famous fan, of sorts.

For 14 years, until this season, Wilbur played the organ for Phillies' home spring training games. He made history in 1985 when was ejected for playing Three Blind Mice in response to what he considered a rotten call.

These days, at most spring training games no one plays an organ. Most of the ball parks have gone high-tech and brought in fancy music machines.

This season, Jack Russell Stadium purchased recorded music and dismissed Wilbur.

"They just told me they weren't going to hire me this year," Wilbur says. "It wasn't anything I did or didn't do."

He's still a baseball fan. Heck, he's still a Phillies fan, even though they've just fired him.

This Sunday, with no organ to play, Wilbur spends his time peddling homemade crafts. Not only is he a competent musician, he's also handy with a saw.

He collects broken baseball bats and turns them into knickknacks. A pencil holder is $3. A toy car is $8. An actual bat is $30.

Below the stadium seats, the couple has set up three tables full of chunks of wood. Janice, 76, sits at the right side while her thick-waisted cigar-smoking husband holds court on the left.

Baseball has been good to them. They know that.

(After Sunday's game, the Phillies had a change of heart and rehired Wilbur. Friday, he and his organ console were back in the park. He missed only six games.)

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Over in the cheap seats is a motley crew of shirtless men. They are just four of the 4,641 fans at the game today.

There aren't many people here, the visitors' bleacher side, where the breezes are strong enough to blow your hat off.

These guys are basking in the kind of day that could trick them into thinking they won't get sunburned. But they don't fall for it. They know chances are good that they'll turn a raging red.

So they came prepared.

"I'm working on base pink right now and will move to the hard-core beat red in a while," says 22-year-old Jerome Nottingham.

Jerome is only joking. They all applied SPF 36 lotion to their faces and SPF 15 lotion to the rest of their exposed skin and produce the lotion bottles as proof.

All four are college students on spring break. They attend Radford University in Virginia and are seeking serious Florida sun.

Why didn't they just go to the beach and lay in the sun?

"It's just a neat environment, man. Something different," Jerome says. "We'll be on the beach all week, man. Why not spend time watching major league baseball players?"

Not diehard fans, but fans nonetheless.