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On the Road: Warm greetings in Tampa

The biggest Tampa Yankees' fan is likely to be the first one you see
April 13, 2015

If you want to meet the Tampa Yankees' biggest fan while attending a game at the team's home of George Steinbrenner Field, then it won't take very long. Chances are that he's the guy who scanned your ticket.

A peek at Ben's trip to Tampa in photos, vines »

That would be Dallas McClain, a 19-year-old special needs student, ROTC member, baseball player and passionate supporter of the Yankees' Florida State League affiliate. His first exposure to the team came via his family, which is made up of long-time season-ticket holders and booster-club members. Over the years, he became such a ballpark fixture that he eventually was offered employment as a greeter. In this capacity, he brings a concentrated burst of enthusiasm to a cavernous ballpark within which such a thing can often be lacking (George Steinbrenner Field, also the Spring Training home of the Yankees, can hold more than 11,000 people).

"[Dallas] is a guy who had been around the ballpark constantly," said Tampa Yankees general manager C. Vance Smith. "So what better person to have as a greeter at the games? This will be his third year. His first year it was more of hybrid, trying it out for a game here and there. Now, he's working as many games as he can fit into his busy schedule."

As for how long he's been a fan, McClain said that "I'm guessing, a lot." In his role as a greeter, he enjoys wearing a uniform -- blue polo team-logo shirt and gray ball cap -- knowing all of the regular fans and being the first person those fans see at the ballpark.

"They say 'Good job scanning," said McClain, of a typical reaction to his workplace efforts.

But, even more than interacting with the fans, McClain enjoys interacting with the players.

One night in Bradenton »

"I love seeing the players warm up," he said. "I like [2011 Tampa Yankee] Luke Murton, because he wore number 53."

McClain wears number two for his local Northside Little League team, for whom he plays third base and outfield. He said that his future plans include a desire to "play more baseball." And if he has his way, he'll soon be able to perform at Steinbrenner Field, albeit in a different fashion.

"[McClain] is definitely on me to invite his ROTC team to be the color guard at a game this season," said Smith. "We haven't scheduled it, but there's no way I can say no to that one."

Get a Lego this…

This week, one of the coolest things to see at Steinbrenner Field is a miniature version of Steinbrenner Field. A Lego replica of the 19-year-old facility, created by Mark Staffa of the Greater Florida Lego Users Group, is being displayed on the concourse during Tampa's first four home games of the season. Though Staffa wasn't in attendance at Sunday's game -- he was, perhaps not surprisingly, attending a Lego-related event in Orlando -- a handy fact sheet provided by the team included the following information:

• The Steinbrenner Field replica took approximately 10 months to design, using approximately 40,000 pieces.

• More than 800 mini-figures are included within the replica. Players, concession workers and fans (including a number of Star Wars Stormtroopers) are interspersed throughout.

• All of the outfield signage and scoreboard references Lego-related items. Among these are Octan (a fictional gas station brand featured in Lego sets), Brick Journal Magazine (a resource for Lego enthusiasts) and the Greater Florida Lego Users Group (GFLUG) of which Staffa is a part.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.