For new readers of the CCO that are unfamiliar with the year-round coverage of the Cubs we provide, the site will take a slight departure today. The CCO is more than just the latest rumors and transactions, it is A Site for the Cubs Faithful….the most dedicated fan base, in my opinion, in all of professional sports.
Several years ago I met Chris Proctor before a Reds game in Cincinnati. We both were carrying our cameras attempting to capture the Cubs in pre-game warm ups. We, of course talked Cubs, exchanged emails and have stayed in contact ever since…..longtime readers might remember several of Chris’ photos appearing on the site.
Chris has since progressed into the professional ranks, shooting for the likes of MLB.com, MiLB.com, Yahoo Sports and Baseball America. A few weeks back he sent an email about a gentleman he met last summer while shooting Daytona Cubs’ games. I found the story fascinating and felt the Faithful should meet Joe Rowe, or “Front Row Joe” as he is known at “The Jack“….
This past summer I spent a week in Florida shooting the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) and the Florida State League (High A). I was traveling with Jerry Hale, who is a good friend and fellow professional baseball photographer. We traveled all over the state shooting GCL and FSL games trying to get shots of players that were on our “hit list.” Our week ended with two Daytona Cubs games at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, FL. Most FSL teams play in MLB Spring Training parks so they look empty during the games but “The Jack” is older, smaller and like everything else Cubs they draw a nice crowd.
Jerry used to be the D. Cubs team photographer and knows just about everybody at the ballpark. We walked onto the field and he immediately introduced me to Jody Davis, who was managing the D. Cubs. Jody and I talked for a few minutes, what a nice guy! Then I met Joe Rowe, or “Front Row Joe” as he is known. Joe is the Daytona Cubs #1 fan and probably the most popular guy in the ballpark. The players know him, the umpires know him, the fans know him and I’m pretty sure the opposing teams know him too. He has season tickets right next to the home teams dugout and proudly has the D. Cubs logo and the initials “FRJ” tattooed on his arm, which got him free season tickets for life.
FRJ has been to every home game since 1995, that’s well over 900 consecutive games at The Jack. Yes, that’s right, over 900 Daytona Cubs home games without missing a single one! I think that’s pretty impressive. Some of the current players were in kindergarten when he started attending games. There’s even a sign on the outfield wall that keeps track of his streak and before each game Joe, Cubbie and couple of lucky fans update the sign.
After it got too dark to shoot any more photos I went and sat with Joe in the stands and we talked about anything and everything to do with the Cubs. He can name the players that passed through Daytona on their way to the majors and what team they are playing for today. He can tell you who played third base in 1999 or whatever history you want to know. I heard stories about Kerry Wood’s 10-2 season with Daytona in 1996.
It was a magical season for the Daytona Cubs and FRJ, they eventually went on to beat the Fort Myers Miracle in four games to win the FSL Championship. FRJ said he wants to break Cal Ripken’s record of 2,131 consecutive games, of course he’s just watching and not playing but I guess there’s more than one way to be like “Iron Man.” I don’t know if he’ll do it or not but I wish him the best. As I sat there at “The Jack” with a beer in my hand, watching the Cubs win and listening to Joe I thought to myself, does life get any better?