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Blue Wahoos superfan memorialized at ballpark  

Ro Bergman was a beloved member of Pensacola baseball family
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos held a ballpark memorial for Ro Bergman, their biggest fan.
@BensBiz
May 9, 2022

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos held a ballpark memorial service last week for Judith RoAnn Bergman. She was the team’s biggest fan. Bergman, best known by her nickname Ro, was a boisterous presence at Blue Wahoos Ballpark from the moment the team -- currently the Marlins' Double-A affiliate -- and facility

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos held a ballpark memorial service last week for Judith RoAnn Bergman. She was the team’s biggest fan.

Bergman, best known by her nickname Ro, was a boisterous presence at Blue Wahoos Ballpark from the moment the team -- currently the Marlins' Double-A affiliate -- and facility debuted in 2012. Ro could be found in, or standing in front of, her seat behind home plate. Her gameday attire generally consisted of a "#1 Fan" team jersey and customized sunglass with “RO” written in the center, just above the bridge of her nose. Ro went on to join the gameday staff in 2018, bringing joy, enthusiasm and copious baseball knowledge to the press box.

Ro passed away on Feb. 5, following a battle with cancer. The ballpark memorial, open to the public, was exactly what she wanted.

“Ro was a planner, so she was planning her funeral while she was still alive,” said Blue Wahoos owner Quint Studer. “When I talked with her, I was so impressed with her belief system. She was so grateful for her life and had such integrity.”

Ro's customized sunglasses were on display during Tuesday's ballpark memorial service.

Prior to the Blue Wahoos, Studer owned the city’s independent league baseball team, the Pensacola Pelicans. Ro and her husband, Oscar, were regulars at Pelican Park. Studer and his wife, Rishy, got to know the couple, including the discovery that he and Ro went to the same Illinois high school. Oscar died in 2011, at which point Ro’s baseball fandom reached a new level.

“I think she needed a loving relationship. I think we really filled a gap for her. The [Blue Wahoos] staff became part of her family,” said Studer. “We had the sliding scale for Ro. ‘What can you pay this year for season tickets?’ Then we made up the difference.... It got to the point where, she loves being here so much, why don’t we just hire her? So she came to the press box, and that for her was the gift of gifts.”

Among the people whom Ro forged a relationship with in the press box was Blue Wahoos senior writer Bill Vilona.

“Being at the ballpark was her happy place,” he said. “A sanctuary filled with people who became friends and helped boost her spirits through the loneliness of being a widow and having family far away. She loved every moment of the games.”

Ro stayed connected with the Blue Wahoos in the offseason, highlighted by her annual holiday party. In 2020, when there were no games at all, the team celebrated her 80th birthday with a full-staff surprise Zoom call that also included her favorite Blue Wahoos player, catcher Taylor “Gelly” Grzelakowski.

As Ro’s health declined, and she began to acquire home hospice care, the bond only deepened.

“We had the opportunity to visit her in her final days at home. There was, quite literally, a line of people waiting to see her,” said Daniel Venn, Blue Wahoos vice president of entertainment and media. “Throughout our visit, her phone never stopped ringing. She had so many friends, so many people who wanted to wish her well, because she brought so much kindness and joy everywhere she went.”

Ro’s presence will always be felt at Blue Wahoos Ballpark, and the lessons she imparted always remembered.

“Ms. Ro was part of the fabric and the heart of our ballpark,” said Venn. “Every day, no matter what, she walked in with a smile on her face, offered a hug, and said it was a great day because she got to watch baseball.”

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