Ron Stowe might love college baseball more than anyone.
The 72-year-old attended his 254th consecutive North Carolina baseball game on Monday, and he has missed only three games -- one series -- out of the past 443.
Stowe jokes with UNC coach Mike Fox (they know each other pretty well; Stowe sometimes sits with Fox’s wife during games) that he probably has seen more Carolina baseball than Fox himself, when you take into account the various ejections and suspensions in Fox’s 15 seasons with the Tar Heels.
Stowe has always loved baseball. A second baseman in his day, he signed with the Detroit Tigers out of high school and played for nine years. After that, he was a manager for the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League’s Mercer Titans for about 10 years and led his team to the league championship in 1976.
He started following the Tar Heels nearly 20 years ago. At the time, he was living in Pennsylvania, having retired at 53 after doing pretty well for himself in commercial real estate. Stowe’s daughter was a student at Elon University, about an hour northwest of UNC, and when he and his wife visited her in February 1995, a friend took Stowe to a Duke-Carolina basketball game. It turned out to be one of the more legendary games between the schools (Duke lost 102-100 even after Jeff Capel hit a half-court prayer of a shot to send the game to double overtime). Stowe was so moved by what he experienced that night that he told his wife: “We’re moving here.”
Stowe has been an avid baseball follower ever since, but his current streak dates to 2009. He gets season tickets every year, and for away games, he travels with a group known to the Carolina baseball community as “The Committee.” They split the costs of travel and lodging, but that 2009 series they missed? It was against Boston College, and it was too far for some of the guys. Stowe didn’t want to drop the $1,500 to go alone, so he stayed home. “But if I’d known it would get to this point, I would’ve made sure to get to those,” he says with an exasperated laugh.
Funny thing is, the exact same thing almost happened this year, again with BC. But then there was bad weather in Boston, the games were moved to UNC, and Stowe’s streak lived.
Now he’s hoping the Heels make it to the College World Series again this year. He already booked his flight.