This man heckled so well the Syracuse Chiefs gave him tickets
Joseph Bloss | Senior staff writer
During every game at NBT Bank Stadium this year, a man in the stands predicts the future. He knows if a pitcher will throw a fastball or a changeup. He knows if a batter will knock a “base hit” — his famous phrase exclaimed more often than even the hottest teams could collect base hits. He knows if a towering fly ball will land past the outfield fence for a home run.
Well, at least he sounds like he knows.
“We call him the pitching coach, the hitting coach and just about anything else,” said David Underwood, a NBT Bank Stadium vendor of 20 years. “Sometimes he actually gets it right.”
The claims come from Lloyd Broadnax. Everyone at every Syracuse Chiefs game hears him. He is the team’s loudest fan. It’s not close. The 55-year-old’s cheers, and more famously, his jeers, echo throughout the often-empty minor-league ballpark that will host its last series of the season this weekend. Within the Chiefs organization, Broadnax is known as “Suspect,” one of his signature insults.
“You’re looking suspect,” he yelled at an opposing pitcher who couldn’t find the zone.
“I’m selling strikes, you want to buy one?” Broadnax asked another working with a 3-0 count.
“Did somebody call the landscaper? He’s doing a lot of mowing around here,” he shouted after a Chiefs hurler collected another strikeout.
Some fans laugh because the noise gives humor to an otherwise quiet experience. Others stare because they can’t comprehend a passion for class AAA ball like Broadnax’s. What they don’t see, though, is a man who leans on America’s pastime to stay behind the line he’s crossed his whole life.
He has always loved baseball. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Broadnax played shortstop at John Jay High School. During his senior year in 1979, the recruiting letters arrived. St. John’s and Texas A&M, he said, were among the colleges to offer him a scholarship.
He never went to college. He never even opened the letters. His focus was elsewhere.
“The streets,” he said, simply. “Started hanging out, partying.”
Broadnax remembered it started with a few puffs of marijuana or one drink after games. The summer after graduation, drugs put a lot of money in his pocket. Selling turned to using. Alcohol, cocaine, crack. He turned 20, then 30, then 40.
“I didn’t understand that I had a problem,” Broadnax said. “I just thought that if I can just control it, I’d be OK. But there’s no such thing as control.”
Broadnax remembered being jumped in 1985. The assailants whacked him in the head with a baseball bat.
“Ironic,” he said later.
He lost teeth, broke his jaw and entered a four-day coma, he said. In the ‘90s, he said, he spent six years in prison. When he got out, he went back to using because he didn’t know what else to do.
Broadnax became his own best customer. Through it all, his mother, who he still lived with in Brooklyn, wanted a better life for him. In 1999, she got sick.
“She didn’t tell us because what I was doing was killing her anyway,” Broadnax said. “She couldn’t take it no more.”
His mother died of bone cancer on May 31, 2001. Broadnax missed the funeral because he was somewhere getting high. He inherited his mother’s home, but he couldn’t afford it. So, he moved to Syracuse to live with his sister. New town, new life, he hoped.
It worked for a while. His first night in town, Broadnax met the woman who would become the mother of his two now-teenage sons, Lloyd Jr. and Michael who all now live in Texas. In 2003, he ran into an old friend who he knew from Brooklyn and the friend told him he looked like he needed help. Broadnax entered a rehabilitation program at Commonwealth Place in Syracuse and started attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Joseph Bloss | Senior staff writer
That year, months after the birth of his first son, Broadnax wandered back to the game that defined his own childhood. He attended Chiefs games, which became representative of the stability he was struggling to achieve. At games, Broadnax sat in the upper left corner seats. It was the perfect perch to chirp at plenty of players, including then-24-year-old Chiefs outfielder Jayson Werth. Broadnax’s heckling became so notorious that the Chiefs wanted to put an end to it. They couldn’t face such scrutiny in their own park.
The team proposed an offer: If Broadnax agreed to heckle the opposition instead, a Chiefs player would buy his ticket. Broadnax credited former Chief and longtime major-leaguer Shaun Marcum as an early adopter of the deal, which still continues today.
Current first baseman Brandon Snyder supplies Broadnax’s tickets this year. Snyder’s been around the International League since 2009 and has been on the wrong side of Broadnax’s quips before. He once approached Broadnax in the parking lot after a game and asked, in good fun, to cut him a break. Broadnax kindly declined. Now, with a chance to have Broadnax on his side, Snyder had to make sure the opponent got the same treatment.
“It’s like no matter what, even now on this team, you hear him,” Snyder said. “You can’t block him out.”
Earlier this month, Broadnax roamed the scattered first-baseline crowd during a weekend series against the Indianapolis Indians. To keep his routine, Broadnax only needed a water bottle to keep his mouth wet and a hand towel to keep his sweaty, shaved head dry. On the concrete below his seat, he placed a cheat sheet of the Indians lineup, so he could quickly recall a name for maximum heckling. Indians’ first baseman Edwin Espinal, or “Big Baby” as Broadnax called him, was the target for the day.
Broadnax was friendly with other spectators, too, sharing foul balls with crying kids and telling vacation-bound regulars they deserve their post-season trip. As the game dragged on, Kevin Lantry and his son Liam, both from Baldwinsville, felt emboldened by Broadnax and chipped in some heckling of their own.
“We could’ve sat anywhere, but look where we did,” Lantry said.
Broadnax has relapsed multiple times during the past decade. He did not attend one game last summer because he was incarcerated, he said, but that he’s been clean since the arrest on March 1, 2016.
Now, he goes to games with his daughter, Nayana, named using the letters “N” and “A,” because it’s the abbreviation for Narcotics Anonymous. He has a job cleaning windows around town. He’s part of an alcohol substance abuse program at Onondaga Community College that includes psychology and communications courses, as well as an internship. He’ll proudly show off his OCC student ID, because he sees it as a symbol of how he’s providing others the care that saved him.
“My story is my story,” Broadnax said. “That’s what helps me, today, to stay focused.”
Published on August 30, 2017 at 10:25 pm