KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A year ago, Laurence Leavy was an eyesore at the World Series. He was the Marlins Man, the guy in that garish orange jersey sitting right behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium.
Now, he’s getting the Royal treatment.
The 59-year-old principal of a Miami law firm has gained national attention for his ability to land the best seats at the biggest sporting events, usually within direct view of television cameras. At NBA games, that’s right behind the home team’s bench, while at college football games it’s in the front row on the 45-yard line.
On Friday night, he will be perched in all his blaze-orange glory behind the backstop at Citi Field in New York when the Mets try to dig out from an 0-2 deficit.
He was similarly situated in the first two games in Kansas City, a city that embraced him after he donated $10,000 earlier this month to the families of two firefighters who were killed when a building’s burning wall collapsed onto them. He also briefly donned a blue cap and T-shirt, the likes of which are being sold to raise money for the families.
“I love any sports fan, I don’t care what team you’re from,” said Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who met Leavy after losing Game 7 of last year’s World Series. “He’s prideful of his roots. We also appreciate what he’s doing for the firefighters, wearing the hat, wearing the shirt.”
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said he hadn’t heard much about the Marlins Man before he got involved raising money for the firefighters. As for whether Leavy is a distraction, Moore said he pays for the tickets and is entitled to wear what he chooses.
Leavy is impressed with the Mets, comparing their young pitching staff to that of the Atlanta Braves in the days of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. But his budding relationship with a city he’d never visited before last year’s American League Championship Series against Baltimore has him pulling for Kansas City.
Even so, he wouldn’t mind seeing New York take two of three before the Series returns to Kansas City so Royals fans could celebrate winning a championship at home.
If that happens, he plans to have his customized Marlins car shipped to Kansas City so he can lead the parade.
It’s a far cry from a year ago, when he says a team security official told him Royals owner David Glass considered him a distraction and asked if he would switch into a Royals jersey instead.
Leavy declined. When the offer was sweetened with autograph bats and balls if he would only change his shirt, he refused to budge and was a mainstay for the rest of the series in both Kansas City and San Francisco.
Late Tuesday night and into Wednesday, Leavy blocked 500 people from his Twitter account for saying “vicious, mean things” to him for focusing so much on his cellphone when he paid big money for his seats.
“People who’ve never met me in their life,” he said.
Leavy said he’s too busy to watch much television, so the only images of himself he sees are on social media. He tries to read every Twitter message that’s sent to him, which is why he feels the need to watch his phone constantly.
“I figure if it’s important enough for them to reach out to me, out of respect I should reach out back,” he said. “Sometimes, like during a game last year, they were coming in so fast I couldn’t keep up. I was getting like a thousand a minute. It was ridiculous.”
He decided a few weeks ago that Royals fans needed a hand signal that would go well with their basic “go Royals” greeting. In what he believes was a stroke of brilliance, he held four fingers straight up, palm facing toward him, to represent the four-pronged crown in centerfield.
Leavy was told it looked a lot like professional wrestling legend Ric Flair used as the sign for the Four Horsemen, a group of four wrestlers in the 1980s.
A few days after he came up with the sign and got others to do it on video, Leavy found himself seated next to Flair on a flight from Atlanta to Dallas.
Flair had heard of his Royals signal and agreed that it was a lot like the Four Horsemen sign, Leavy said. In the end, the two decided that the Royals crown sign was straight up, while a crooked four-finger signal is for the wrestlers.
After telling that tale among dozens of others, Leavy pointed to a message that popped up on Facebook from a woman who thanked him for his generosity to the Kansas City firefighters. It called him a role model, and thanked him for setting an example her young son can emulate.
He discreetly wiped a tear and says he would love to take her and her son to a game. But what about the other 300 similar notes he has received just in the last day?
“As of this Sunday I have brought 704 people since the beginning of the year who sat in the best seats you can get,” Leavy said. “I wish I had 10,000 more tickets I could give.”