By Mark Yost
New York, NY, USA

I know a lot of great baseball fans.

My friend Angelo Kalogiannis is probably the biggest Yankees fan I know. He grew up in Astoria, Queens, going to games with his Greek-immigrant father, who revered Mickey Mantle and taught Angelo to do the same. Baseball was a bond between them that would never be broken.
Mark Yost

Ciaran McGovern is your quintessential Irishman, albeit from the East Bay of San Francisco. His loyalties often drift between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants, depending on how their seasons are going. But his love of the game has never wavered, from Spring Training to the World Series.

And my son, George, has grown into a pretty good baseball fan. He doesn’t know as much about the history of the game as I’d like, but he’s in two fantasy leagues and knows most of the top players.

As much as these guys love the game, they all pale in comparison to Ben Koster. He’s the first guy to ask on Facebook – usually around Thanksgiving – “How many days until pitchers and catchers?”

He goes to Spring Training in Florida every year with unbounded enthusiasm, his trademark Hawaiian shirt on his back and a cold beer in his hand. Once the season starts, he relishes every win and agonizes over every defeat like no one I know. And Ben encourages others to love baseball, too.

What makes Ben’s fandom all-the-more remarkable is that he’s spent his whole life cheering for the Minnesota Twins (and against the New York Yankees). Long known for having one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Twins have developed some of the best talent over the years...and then promptly traded it away as players were on the verge of stardom and about to demand that big contract.

Despite these many years of heartbreak, some of it self-inflicted, Ben has never lost an ounce of hope or a drop of enthusiasm for his beloved game of baseball. For him, there’s always the next game, the promise of a 10-game home stand. And, sometime around August, inevitably, there’s always next year. Or, put another way, the long-suffering Brooklyn Dodgers had nothing on Ben Koster and the Minnesota Twins.

And that’s why I truly believe that Ben Koster is The Greatest Baseball Fan in America.

With the Twins at 9-13 in late-April, I had a chance to sit down with Ben.

MARK YOST: What is it that you love about baseball?

BEN KOSTER: I love the history, the stats, the smells, the sounds, the ballparks, the fans, the beer, the food. Everything about the game just has always appealed to me as a way to get away for three hours (four and a half if it’s a Red Sox game) and just enjoy a ballgame. I don’t know if it’s a nostalgia thing or an escape thing but watching a ballgame puts me in a very happy place, regardless of who is playing. When I travel to other cities to catch a game I almost prefer that the Twins aren’t playing. It gives me the chance to just enjoy the game I love without having the emotional attachment to one team. 

Ben Koster - All Star Game (2014)

MARK YOST: What makes baseball different from other sports?

BEN KOSTER: It’s a summer game. It defines summer for me. The other major sports are winter sports and are all really better on television, in my opinion. Baseball, though, can really only be fully experienced at the ballpark.

I used to love the fact that there was no time clock in baseball like in other sports. But that – to my utter dismay – is being rapidly eroded. Not sure why there’s such a push to make games shorter. I never want the game to end when I’m at the ballpark. 

MARK YOST: What’s your first baseball memory?

BEN KOSTER: I actually remember crying as a young lad when the Twins lost. It must have been the early-1970s at the time. I would listen to the games on WCCO radio with Herb Carneal and I took every loss so hard. One of my happiest early baseball memories is when my dad bought me a mini-Mike Cubbage bat when I was about nine or ten. It was red. I think I slept with that bat. Not sure why I was such a big Mike Cubbage fan, although I do remember the “Cubbage Patch” seating section at Metropolitan Stadium. I lost that bat years ago and that still makes me sad. I also fondly recall Knothole tickets to games at the old Met where kids could get into the ballpark for a buck. 

MARK YOST: What are some of the greatest games you’ve ever seen?

BEN KOSTER: By far, the greatest Twins game I have ever attended was Game 163 against the Tigers on October 6, 2009. It was an incredibly exciting game, from the first pitch to Carlos Gomez’s slide into home to score the winning run in the 12th inning. The tension and the energy in the Metrodome that night was like nothing I have ever experienced. 

Playoff games are always great, too. There’s just a different kind of energy in the ballpark than there is for a regular season game. 

But my favorite game of the season is always Opening Day. New beginning, fresh start, the end of winter and all that. 

MARK YOST: What are some of the worst games you’ve ever seen?

BEN KOSTER: To be honest I don’t really have any “worst games” retrospect. I have been terribly disappointed after countless games (especially playoff games against the Yankees, whom I despise) but to paraphrase a famous saying, a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else. 

I’ve seen some real stinkers, though. The Twins have had some truly awful teams but I went to games those seasons regardless just to take in a ballgame. 

An embarrassing revelation...I did break my hand a few years back by slamming it on a countertop when the boys failed to score after a leadoff triple. I remember the worst plays much more that I would, say, whole games. 

Ben Koster and Mark Yost

MARK YOST: How many World Series games have you been to?

BEN KOSTER: I have never been to one. In fact, in 1987, I was traveling abroad. I was doing a semester in London my junior year at St. John’s University. I knew all summer that it was going to happen. The Twins in the World Series and me 4,000 miles away from it all. It turned out to be pretty cool, though. One of my favorite memories was sharing headphones with a pretty little St. Ben’s girl listening to the ALCS on Armed Forces Radio somewhere in Scotland. The day they won the World Series we tried our best to wake up the entire city of London screaming out of the window of her flat. The Brits must have thought we were crazy. She dumped me when we returned to the states, however. 

Then there was Game 7 in 1991. One of the greatest World Series games of all time. I spent most of it driving to and attending the visitation/funeral of a very close friend’s father. She pretty much forcibly threw me out of the funeral home that night and said she and the family would meet me at the local bar to watch the end of the game.

MARK YOST: Like a lot of men, games with your dad hold special meaning.

BEN KOSTER: Can there be any better games? I remember taking him to Opening Day at Target Field in 2010. He was so excited and, I must say, proud as I played a part in building that ballpark.

[Editor’s note: Ben is an accomplished architect when he’s not balancing a hot dog, a beer and a scorecard on his knee in the left field bleachers. In an ironic and much-deserved twist of fate, he was actually one of the architects who designed the Twins’ new stadium, Target Field.

Ben Koster at Target Field during construction

As a kid, going to ballgames with my dad was nothing short of heaven. As an adult going to games with him is kind of like that scene in “Field of Dreams” wanna have a catch? I love sharing that with him and will as often as we both can. 

MARK YOST: Having said all that, remembering all these great times, it’s not easy being a Twins fan, is it?

BEN KOSTER: Sometimes it’s hard. A small market team like the Twins has to suffer through long stretches of lean years in order to field a contending team and, more often than not, that window of success is quite small and shuts very quickly. But, those years when they contend are almost magical. 

Of course, I love Target Field. It was a struggle convincing friends to come to games with me at the Metrodome because nobody really wanted to spend a beautiful summer afternoon, of which there are precious few in Minnesota, indoors. Now that we have the best ballpark in the majors in my somewhat biased opinion, it my favorite place to be.

MARK YOST: How many games have you been to?

BEN KOSTER: Rough estimate, I would say somewhere between 450 and 500.

MARK YOST: What would you do if there wasn’t baseball?

BEN KOSTER: A world without baseball is a world not worth living in. But if you want a specific answer, I think I would buy a cabin up north and go fishing more in the summer.



Mark Yost is the author of the Rick Crane Series of five noir novels set in upstate New York. In June 2016, he and his son George completed a decade-long quest to visit every Major League baseball stadium in the county.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.