Harry Butler ranks as one of the Grand Prairie AirHogs’ biggest fans, maybe their biggest.
The Arlington resident has owned season tickets since 2008, the team’s inaugural season, and he now has 12 seats down the first base line. Butler estimates that he has attended an average of 45 of the AirHogs’ 50 home games per season and missed only two last season.
“He is up there, by far, as one of our biggest fans,” general manager John Bilbow said. “You know there’s a subculture in minor-league baseball of people who inject themselves into the lives of these players. They become surrogate parents. They feed them. They help them out. It’s out of sheer love for the game and appreciation for the situation that they’re in. There are a few of them here in this club, like everywhere, but he is definitely one of the ones who stands out.”
Butler also now can call himself the AirHogs’ manager, at least for a week.
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Carla Butler won the team’s online auction as a Christmas present for her husband, with the winning bid of $1,500 earning Harry Butler a chance to “manage” the team for a week. Butler’s six-game stint in the dugout begins Tuesday at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie.
“I’m going to do whatever [manager] Eric [Champion] tells me he wants me to do,” Butler said. “I’m not going to get in the way of the guys who are actually going to take the team to the championship this year.”
Butler, 60, grew up in Philadelphia, a Phillies fan of course. The 22-year Tarrant County resident goes to a handful of Rangers games a year, usually if the Phillies are on the schedule.
But Butler enjoys the minor leagues more. He also owned Fort Worth Cats tickets and spends his winters at Fort Worth Brahmas games as a loyal season ticket holder.
“While I like going to a Rangers game or, in my case, a Phillies game, the guys up there have a tendency to forget where they started,” said Butler, the director of information technology for a Dallas-based company. “The guys down at the A, AA or AAA level, they’re still trying to get up to the major leagues, so a lot of that’s not guaranteed.
“The other appealing thing is that it’s a good, family atmosphere, and it’s more affordable for a family. Eight-dollar tickets, I mean, you can’t beat that.”
The AirHogs, who play in the American Association of Independent Baseball, have 118 season ticket holders. They have weekly promotions, including Two-Fer Tuesday and $5 Friday, with several special events planned, including Dog Appreciation Day and Organ Donor Appreciation Day.
The AirHogs advertise several season ticket packages, including a Weekender Package that goes for $100 per reserved seat.
But Butler won the best fan experience the team offers.
“It’s really geared toward the guy who has baseball at heart,” Bilbow said. “You really have to breathe it and love it to appreciate all the nuances and experience you get when you do something like that.
“Harry’s going to be a little bit out of his element. He’s not really an athletic guy, but at the same time, he’s a perfect fit for it.”
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760