Unlikely fans of America’s favorite pastime are two senior ladies living at East Ridge at Cutler Bay, a life plan community in South Miami Dade County. They are as devoted to their hometown team—the Miami Marlins—as they are to baseball.
A Gallup poll found that just under half of Americans consider themselves to be baseball fans and say it is their favorite sport to watch. That is the case for Pat Eaton, 92, and Elaine Koch, 83. But loving baseball is not a newfound passion. Each has been a longtime sports fan and avid Marlin fans since the team’s inception and through both winning and lackluster seasons.
A day doesn’t go by during the six-month baseball season that the two don’t wake up and turn on their TVs to learn game outcomes or pick up the morning newspaper to check the box scores.
“I want to make sure the scores are right,” said Pat.
Elaine enjoys having her TV tuned for baseball. She listens to it continually like some people listen to the news.
“TV shows are pretty bad and the news isn’t positive so watching baseball is a perfect escape,” she said.
Elaine was introduced to the game as a child. She and her father would listen to games on the radio.
“Back then, we were avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans. But when the Dodgers moved to California and I was in my teens, baseball was less important,” she explained.
Her interest in baseball was invigorated when she married. Her husband was a baseball enthusiast and the sport became part of their family. Her three daughters played softball and her two sons played Little League, which her spouse coached. When Miami acquired a home team, they began going to Marlin games.
Marrying a baseball player introduced Pat to the game. Her husband, Joe Eaton, was a talented baseball player but his opportunity to play professionally was extinguished by the war. While he was training to be a bomber pilot, they eloped. When his military service ended, since baseball didn’t offer the kind of salary today’s players enjoy, he was encouraged to pursue a law career.
He was instrumental in explaining the game’s strategy to Pat which helped her understand the intricacies of the game, especially from a player’s perspective.
“So many people say it’s a slow game,” she said. “But because I understand the strategy behind the plays, it becomes so much more exciting.”
She said baseball is her passion: “I’m happy when there’s a game. It’s disappointing when the team takes a travel day.”
As well as following the Marlin games, both Pat and Elaine keep up with the sports reporters covering the games and watch for any news about injured players, trades and players’ families. They know who is married and how many children they have and enjoy seeing them attend the games. They keep up on team scores and standings.
Pat and Elaine find each other in the East Ridge dining room and Lifestyle Center to talk about their team and are disappointed their neighbors don’t share their enthusiasm for the sport.
“When I tell someone I watch baseball, it’s not unusual for them to give me an odd look,” Elaine said.
She periodically goes to games with her family and even celebrated her 80th birthday at the stadium, receiving birthday wishes from Billy Marlin.
One of Pat’s six grandchildren, Elise Allison, shares Pat’s passion for baseball. She’ll often call Pat and talk about a play and ask, “Did you see that home run?”
When the post-season ended in October, neither lady watches football as a replacement. Elaine may watch UM basketball while Pat will catch up with the Netflix shows she missed during baseball season.