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When John Rocker blew through town some people sought shelter and others danced in the rain.

The Perfect Storm


A pitch is thrown as silence descends upon The Diamond.

"Give it up Rocker," a young boy blasts from the upper deck.

A pack of haunting boos come from all around. They're haunting because they come from the older people in the crowd, and they're not for John Rocker. They're for the boy who couldn't hold his thoughts another moment. He spoke during the rare time people were listening.

You see it's the ninth inning and Rocker's struggling a bit. Let the man work in peace.

That's what most of the crowd thought.

There's definitely a sense of camaraderie at The Diamond this evening. It's Tuesday, June 13, and Rocker's making his first pitching appearance in the city of Richmond after being demoted from Atlanta. Unbeknownst to everyone, he will be gone from Richmond tomorrow after an injury sidelines Braves pitcher Rudy Seanez.

Rarely does Richmond get to witness a major leaguer. Rocker's visit will be much like the thunderstorm that delays the game for two hours: loud and fleeting. Richmonders mock the storm as they flood the entrance gates and yell Rocker's name, drowning out most dissenters.

Like the storm, Rocker will blow quickly through Richmond.

During the rain and game, six guys wander around shirtless, each with a letter from the closer's name on their chest begging for and receiving cheers from fans.

Around the concession stands, one middle-school-age Richmond child totes a sign that reads "I  New York." On the back, it informs Rocker the kid's grandmother is Asian and she's a good driver, a reference to Rocker's infamous comments in Sports Illustrated. When I ask why he isn't out carrying the sign through the stands, the young Richmonder concedes he and his friends are afraid of Rocker's supporters, especially the shirtless ones.

The press box is full of cameras, laptops and Rocker's archenemy: the media. During the storm, a few reporters look like they would have more fun watching grass grow.

While workers roll water from the field before the game's start at 9:20 p.m., Braves mascot Diamond Duck waves the much-photographed sign that reads: "John Rocker paid for his mistake … so get over it & let's play ball!!!!!!!!" Everyone cheers and one fan screams: "I love it! I love it! I love it!"

In the section near the Braves' bullpen, an apologetic team official asks people to leave their seats. The area is now decorated with yellow police tape. Maybe the security is unnecessary. On this night, people sitting around the bullpen are more likely to throw roses at Rocker than batteries.

Rocker pokes his head out in the final innings. The crowd cheers when he moves into the bullpen. They cheer when he runs onto the field.

Yet, one fan does not cheer. Steve Pudner, 18, a lifelong Richmonder and New York Mets fan, wears his Mets cap. He doesn't like Rocker for shutting down the Mets in the playoffs last year, and the pitcher's racial comments and actions only made the feelings worse.

He isn't carrying batteries, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't like to see a flying object find its way to Rocker's gun. An ideal situation, Pudner says, would be a line drive hitting Rocker on his pitching arm and then being caught by another Brave. Even Pudner has issues with rooting against the home team.

When Rocker pitches, Pudner boos and heckles. When another Braves player makes a good play he cheers. When Rocker gets out of the situation, Pudner ascribes it to a good play by the defense.

The fans cheer as Rocker finishes the game. As he descends into the dugout he throws them a sincere wave. The storm is over.

But one clap of thunder still reverberates in my mind.

After the two-hour rain delay, the shirtless sextet stands in front of the home dugout to get the crowd cheering Rocker's name spelled on their chests.

The guys don't notice the two youngsters decked in caps and gloves pointing and laughing uncontrollably at them. It isn't a laugh of appreciation or admiration. It's the way people laugh at the foolishness of

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