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The Man in the Straw Hat, A Baylor Soccer Story

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Big XII Champion Baylor Bears open play tonight at 7:00 PM CT in exhibition against Sam Houston State at the Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.

Chinese Welcome FIFA World Cup Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

The Man in the Straw Hat

It was a hot day in August, 2016, and I was at DeMartin Soccer Complex on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. I had driven straight up US 127 the night before from my home in Northwest Ohio, checked into a motel for the night and was up in the morning donning my gold shirt and green Baylor ball cap just in time to arrive only a few minutes before the Baylor Women’s Soccer team entered the complex for their non-conference game against the Spartans. I made sure to greet them at the gate with a Bear Claw and a Sic ‘em Bears!

I made my way to the stands and was surprised yet very pleased to see more than a few dozen Baylor fans in attendance. I have a strong suspicion from their comportment that they were mostly close relatives of the players. I wanted to sit with them in their section directly in front of the loudspeakers which were blaring the latest contemporary “girly” hit songs. Now I must admit that I get some razing now and then because my list of likes does include this genre of music but the loud speakers where just that, loud. Too loud for me so I sat in the next section over, a couple of rows from the bottom, all by myself.

A sprinkling of Spartan fans arrived to share my section but left me plenty of space to include the entire length of my row. It was a really great game but in the end Baylor lost because they had allowed one too many corner kicks. That’s a phrase I had just learned because this was my first ever soccer game to watch that was announced in english. It didn’t matter that Baylor had lost, as an avid Baylor fan I had spent the morning with fellow Baylor fans, whatever their motivation, and had cheered for the Green and Gold being flung afar, and that included the older gentleman who inconspicuously began sharing my bench only a couple of empty seats away.

He was wearing some lightly faded yet well kept jeans, a belt, a fifties style button up short sleeve plaid shirt tucked in neatly at the waist and on top of his head, a straw hat. Somebody’s grandfather if you ever did see one. He could have been out tending the garden. He clapped and cheered, albeit in a quiet and relaxed fashion which is almost my exact opposite, right along with me for the Bears. He couldn’t have picked a more perfect person to sit next to and remain unobserved in the crowd.

At some point toward the last ten minutes of the match we began to compare notes on the game and the man in the straw hat had come to the same conclusion as I had, that the Baylor players were in better condition and shape than the Spartans. The Bears were in complete control of every aspect of the game with the obvious exceptions of putting the ball in the net and for corner kicks. I’m certain now that it was Baylor’s physical superiority that relegated the Spartans to corner kicks.

We never introduced ourselves to each other. The man in the straw hat left alone, quietly and politely yet promptly after the game while I stayed on to cheer the team as they presented themselves for a postgame visitors bow. It wasn’t until sometime after the game that realization set in as to whom I had shared the game with. I had been sitting next to the infamous Chancellor of Baylor University, Ken Starr, only three months relieved of his responsibilities as President of the University. That wrinkling cherub face, his build and gait; I only noticed him walking one time and that was when he was leaving, as realization slowly dawns, yep, Ken Starr.

Or maybe not. To me he was the man in the straw hat, humble and unassuming, yet as genuinely pleased with the training and conditioning of the Baylor players as I was. We were just two Baylor fans that made the effort in the midst of scandal to attend a non-conference Baylor soccer game 1,250 miles from campus. While a part of me wishes we had properly introduced ourselves, I am glad he was able to share the game with someone who shared, albeit perhaps through my dimwittedness, zero recognition of who the fan in the straw hat truly was or even whomever he was, just a love of all things Baylor.

Sic ‘em Bears!

Tonight is Game Night

Tonight’s game ain’t in Michigan. Its smack dab on the banks of the Brazos River. So, all you Baylor fans that are within two or three hours walking distance got no excuse to not show up and fill up the stands (‘cause there’s no charge for admission tonight), united to cheer on and support our Bears at 7:00 PM CT at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field, regardless of how bad the news is. Just put on your straw hat and enjoy the game and the camaraderie.

The game will also be broadcast live free of charge on Baylor All-Access tonight.

Baylor soccer hosting Sam Houston State for exhibition, kxxv, Baylor soccer opens the 2018-19 Baylor Athletics competition calendar with a preseason exhibition versus Sam Houston State on Friday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.

SOC Hosts Sam Houston State for Preseason Exhibition - Baylor University, The match is free and open to the public, with fans getting the first chance to see the 2018 team in action.

The Bears will get their first test against outside competition and the only tune-up before the regular season kicks off the following weekend.

Sam Houston State saw solid improvement in the 2017 season, posting a 7-6-2 record and a quarterfinal berth in the Southland Conference tournament. The Bearkats played their first scrimmage of the preseason on Aug. 5, grinding out a 1-1 draw with UTSA.

Baylor will look to continue momentum from a historic 2017 season, bringing back strong core of returners from the 2017 Big 12 title and NCAA Elite 8 squad. Seven newcomers will also make their first showing in a BU uniform.

The match will have a free live video stream along with live stats on BaylorBears.com.