COLUMBIA — Taylor Stadium is quiet until Larry Wyatt II arrives.
The stands are nearly empty, but the fans that are there patiently await the start of the Missouri baseball team's final exhibition game Sunday against Iowa.
The Missouri baseball team ended its two-game Joplin benefit series against Iowa on Sunday in a 3-3 tie.
Missouri trailed for the first time in its exhibition series at Taylor Stadium, giving up one run in the first and another in the third. Then the Hawkeyes added another run in the fifth inning on a sacrifice bunt to increase their lead to 3-0.
The Tigers came back, though, with one run in the bottom of the fifth and two more on a Brannon Champagne two-RBI single in the seventh to tie the game.
Missouri ended its exhibition season, which also included a game against a high school team from Ontario, 2-0-1.
Then Wyatt quietly appears on the left field concourse. He cups his hands around his mouth, clears his throat and takes a deep breath.
“Let’s…Go…Tigers!,” he shouts, shattering the silence in the stadium and startling the other fans. About 250 heads turn in unison in the direction of the bellowing voice.
Fans who recognize Wyatt smile in their seats, while fans that were unfamiliar with the Tigers baseball super fan look around curiously, wondering who this person is.
Wyatt is a 35-year-old Columbia native and has been attending Missouri baseball games since spring 1995.
“Yeah, that’s been kind of one of my trademarks around here,” Wyatt said. “This is my fun. This is just my fun.”
The Tigers players head out to the field, and Wyatt looks around the stadium. After surveying all of the empty seats, he sits down near the Tigers’ dugout just as the leadoff hitter for the Hawkeyes strikes out swinging.
“Left!, Right!, Left!, Right!,” he screams, timing his shouts with each humiliated step of the Iowa batter as he sulks and walks slowly back to the dugout.
The other fans turn their heads again towards Wyatt's booming voice as it echoes throughout the stadium. Some fans look irritated, while others grin with amusement.
“Oh yeah, it bothers people,” Wyatt said. “It usually bothers the opposing fans, but you know, the locals have gotten used to it, and they know what they’re going to get from me.”
After the first inning, Wyatt stands and changes his seat. After spotting friends, he moves to sit down next to them, striking up a conversation after arriving. He’s been coming to games long enough that he knows many of the fans.
“How do you not know Larry?,” Missouri coach Tim Jamieson laughed. “I’ve been around for 23 years, and he’s been around for just about all of them.”
Aside from having a prominent impact in the stands, Wyatt has an influence on the field. Missouri players say they are constantly entertained by his outbursts and listen for him rather than look for him before the start of each game.
“It’s hard to come out here and not be loose knowing that you’ve got guys like that up in the stands that want you to succeed,” catcher Ben Turner said. “He definitely always brings a lot of energy around when he’s here.”
A little later, Wyatt turns up directly behind home plate. The Iowa pitcher has thrown three straight balls and looks to be struggling.
“Three balls, no strikes! Three balls, no strikes! Three balls, no strikes! No strikes, no good!” Wyatt screams, standing directly behind the catcher, four rows up in the stands.
The Iowa pitcher throws another ball, and the Tigers, along with Wyatt, earn a walk.
“Ball four, thank you!,” Wyatt shouts.
During games, Wyatt likes to stick with the basic chants. He makes fun of certain situations and sometimes picks on individual players. He claims that each year, on the fly, he will come up with a special one-liner that cracks the stadium up.
“For the most part, I feel like I know everything that he’s going to say,” Turner laughs. “Maybe if he breaks out some new material, I might lose it a little bit. But I think for the most part we all know what to expect from him.”
Some of Wyatt’s chants are cheesy, while others are creative, but you can always guarantee they will not be offensive.
“I know where the lines are. I’m loud, and I fully admit it. I’m one of the loudest people around,” Wyatt said.
He stops his train of thought, as a ball is hit to deep center field. His body slowly rises, following the ball while screaming, “Go, Go, Go.” The Iowa center fielder catches the ball near the fence, and Wyatt slowly drops down back into his seat and continues his thought.
“Where was I? Oh lines. I don’t ever cuss. I get upset, but there’s a line there,” he said. “You’ve got to remember, there’s still little kids here.”
Wyatt also admits that at times he can be a little bit more annoying than he actually wants to, but that he's just trying to have a good time.
As the game continues, Wyatt mingles with the fans. He’s taking full advantage of the time he has to watch his baseball team play. This is the last exhibition game for the Tigers, meaning Wyatt will have to wait a few more months to watch Missouri baseball again.
“This is just fun. I do this because I like to be out here,” he said.
The game is coming to a close. The Tigers fail to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth and end the game tied with the Hawkeyes 3-3.
As children begin to run the bases and fans get autographs from the players, Wyatt screams one last chant and leaves.
The stadium is once again quiet.