'Stan the fan' is a legend at Lake Olmstead

Augusta GreenJackets catcher Tommy Joseph was in a full home-run trot as he touched home plate on the way to a crowd of high-fiving teammates. As Joseph high-fived half a dozen hands, he took note of one particular recipient.

"It was Stan," Joseph said. "I guess he snuck down right to the edge of the dugout to get a high-five."

Stan Swann isn't on the GreenJackets roster, and he's not a member of the ballpark staff. The 55-year-old season ticket holder is easily one of the most enthusiastic and recognizable GreenJackets fans. He makes his rounds during games at Lake Olmstead Stadium, greeting ushers, welcoming other season ticket holders and introducing himself to first-time fans.

He has been brain damaged since birth and lacks the ability to carry on much of a spoken conversation. Stan doesn't let such things stop him from meeting people and enjoying evenings at the ballpark -- or sneaking past an usher for a congratulatory high-five.

"He's been a socialite all his life," said his brother, Richard Swann.

The stolen high-five didn't take place far from Stan's seat. One of the few fans who have regularly attended games since minor league baseball returned to Augusta in 1988, he's the only GreenJackets fan to have his name painted in bold, block lettering on his seat.

Stan rarely uses it. The view from his second-row box seat behind home plate is one of the best in the ballpark, but it's too close to the field for a social butterfly. Instead, he typically sets up on the last row of the box seats behind the home dugout, directly in the middle of the main flow of traffic, where he can greet fans, wave to players, listen to the Atlanta Braves on a small radio and share the score with fans.

On busy nights, Stan has handed out game programs at the front gate or grabbed a ticket stub from a group of lost fans and walked them directly to their seats.

"We all joke that he knows what to do more than some of the staff," GreenJackets marketing manager Lauren Christie said.

Stan has been observing the team's operations for years. Richard and his other brother, Bob Swann, take turns dropping Stan off at Lake Olmstead Stadium before games and picking him up afterward.

"He's just friendly with everybody," Richard said. "He gets around. You try to introduce him to someone, even Augusta leaders and dignitaries, and you hear, 'I know Stan.' "

Stan's knowledge of the location of every section, row and seat in the ballpark and his ability to help lost fans find their way shows part of the reason why baseball suits him so well: He's a numbers guy. He concentrates enough on the field of play to know the count on a regular basis, often holding his fingers up with the number of balls and strikes on the batter. Other times, his fully outstretched arms will show off the score or the number of outs.

Bessie Neal, the only fan to have attended every game since the team was created in 1988, has seen Stan in action hundreds of times.

"People here for the first time might not understand what he's doing," she said. "But if you come out just a few times, you'll get to know him and like him."

Richard Swann said Stan's affinity for numbers and patterns goes beyond baseball with card games and jigsaw puzzles. Before Stan's mother, Ann Swann, died in 2008, she would often encourage Stan to work puzzles.

He got so good at it that he began flipping the pieces upside down and fixing the puzzles cardboard-side up using only the shapes as a guide.

"He loves puzzles and card games, especially poker," Richard Swann said. "He has no poker face whatsoever, but he loves to play."

STAN USES NUMBERS as a means of communication. It's a language that works well at the ballpark.

"If you can talk numbers, you can talk to Stan," said Kevin Enright, a fellow season ticket holder and Stan's Special Olympics coach. "He understands everything and knows everything that's going on."

A regular participant with the Special Olympics Georgia Augusta Stars team, Stan has competed in everything from basketball skills to badminton. He goes bowling on a regular basis and keeps his own score. Enright said Stan topped 175 earlier this year.

After a successful day of competition, Stan will often stroll around Lake Olmstead Stadium showing off the medals he has earned to anyone who will stop.

Ask Stan who his favorite player is, and he'll rattle off the numbers "3" and "5" and point to first base. That's the home of Luke Anders, and a quick nod of the head confirms that No. 35 is his pick.

"(He's) my boy," Stan said.

According to Anders, the feeling is mutual.

"It puts things in perspective when you see a fan like that at the ballpark every day cheering for you," Anders said. "For a player, it doesn't get any better than a fan like Stan."

The players recognize and like the respect Stan shows for the game. Ask him about the Atlanta Braves, and he'll give a tomahawk chop and a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, depending on the score. Walk around during the pregame singing of the national anthem, and he'll hold up a firm hand as a sign to stop. Try to take a photo near the GreenJackets' dugout, and he just might wrap his arm around a person or two and pose for the camera.

Some of those photos have ended up on Facebook, where GreenJackets fans have a handful of groups to join in support of their favorite players and team.

GreenJackets pitching coach Steve Kline has a fan page with a little more than 100 members. But Stan's fan page, titled "Stan Swann -- An Augusta Tradition -- True Baseball Fan" is 22 members shy of the 500 mark.

Official fans of the Facebook page are encouraged to take a photo with Stan and post it online. Several have done that, but others, including former GreenJackets players, have also written messages to Stan on the page's wall.

"Stan is the man," wrote Josh Mazzola, who led the GreenJackets offensively in 2009. "Fans like him make us want to put in all the hard work, day in and day out."

It might not be Stan's intention to inspire players and other fans. Enright said Stan's influence on people and his reason for coming to GreenJackets games day after day is easily explained.

"He's an Augustan," Enright said. "He's going to do what a good Augustan should do and come out and cheer on the team. He's just trying to be like everybody else."

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