Bats Out Of Hell

Why all the fuss? If any Met has been marketed as a sex symbol, it's the 6-3, 215-pound Piazza. In 1998, Playgirl named him one of the 10 sexiest men of the year. This past April, he appeared on the cover of GQ, suave in a suit. And outside Shea last week, one fan whipped open her corduroy jacket to show an airbrushed image of Piazza on her T-shirt. When this woman, Angie Rodriguez, 25, of Queens, watches the games on TV, she talks to the tube when Piazza is up at bat. Giggling, she recalls: "I told him, 'If you hit a home run I'm going to give you a kiss any place you want.' "

Boyfriendless Angie doesn't have to hide her passion for players; other fans do. One woman says that because her boyfriend is the jealous type, she pretends she doesn't understand baseball. In order to watch a game and catch a glimpse of her heartthrob Rey Ordonez, she tells him that she's going to games only to keep his sister company. (The sister is part of this conspiracy.) Other women are almost all the way out to their boyfriends.

"He always busts my horns about it," Kathy says of her boyfriend. "He goes, 'The only reason we're going to the game is to see Mike, right?' I go, 'It doesn't hurt.' " What did the boyfriend think about her spending $50 on a birthday gift for Piazza? "He didn't know about that," she says flatly.

The Final Out

By Beth Greenfield

Some straight women who are not sports fans have their own good and flighty reasons for glomming onto baseball (tight uniforms, tighter asses), as do some of their best girlfriends—otherwise known as gay men.

Greg Fox of Northport is the creator of the gay comic strip Kyle's Bed & Breakfast, currently running in Outlook Long Island and Genre. The strip features "Brad," a closeted baseball player with blond hair, blue eyes and a second-skin uniform that clings to his exaggerated, Tom-of-Finland-like pecs.

"There are many gay baseball fans out there, I have learned from doing this comic strip," says Fox, a fan himself who says that Mets player Robin Ventura "rocks! And not only for his looks—he's a great player." Many of the fans he corresponds with, he says, "are in the closet—not the stereotypical gay-bar kind of guys. In fact, many of them relate to Brad.

"Of course, I receive an equal number of e-mails from gay baseball fans who are very much out. And, yeah, I'm sure the tight uniforms and hot players are a draw, but I don't believe that's enough to bring in gay guys as big fans of the sport. These guys who write me emails love the game itself. You'd really have to, to endure the often long innings and endless repetitions of stats and scores. And let's face it—aside from my comic strip, you don't really see too many pro baseball players strutting around in their briefs."

Suffolk County gay activist and Outlook publisher Tom Hroncich says that most of the men he knows who are baseball fans like it for the sport. As for himself, he says he would watch the Mets if he had more time. "And if Mike Piazza left his helmet-cam running while he stood naked in front of the locker room mirror," he muses, "I suppose I might be inclined not to flip the channel to watch Tino Martinez."

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