Welsh fan follows heart to Cleveland

Welsh fan follows heart to Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- When Luke Zagorski quit his job as an insurance salesman last year, he joked that his bosses were glad to see him go.

And not because the 24-year-old from Wales was a clumsy pitchman.

Rather, the problem was Zagorski's soft spot for the Indians. Or more specifically, his habit of dragging lifelessly into work during baseball season.

Zagorski, you see, never misses a Tribe game. And living across the pond, five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, this means he's often watching baseball at 3 a.m.

"Being a UK baseball fan, it instills a sense of insomnia in you," Zagorski said. "Staying up 'til 4 a.m. and selling insurance at 8 a.m., I don't know how I made it through most days. I really don't."

Thankfully, that will soon no longer be a worry. Zagorski is moving to the Cleveland area later this year with his wife, Erin.

Most importantly, this means he'll now be able to intimately keep tabs on the game that's driven him to run the only UK-based fantasy baseball league. The one-time soccer fanatic now loves the Tribe more than any other sports team.

"When I get here, you won't be able to keep me away from Jacobs Field," Zagorski said.

As he's found out, it's a pretty special place.

In town house-hunting last week, Zagorski was overcome by emotion during his first visit to The Jake.

"I had a few tears in my eyes coming in," said Zagorski, donning a winter Cavaliers hat and a Tribe shirt in section 315. "It's everything I've ever dreamed of and more."

How exactly his passion for the Indians has reached this point is a good question, and one that Zagorski can't precisely answer.

As he said, "It's complicated."

To simplify, it's a story of love and fate that begins some 10 years ago with Zagorski's growing disillusionment with the English soccer game.

Once a die-hard follower of his local Cardiff City squad and the regional power, Manchester United, soccer gradually stopped exciting him the way it once did. There was too much "playacting" in a style which had been reinvented by an influx of international talent, he said.

"So there was this big hole in my life," Zagorski said. "I was just getting bored by soccer."

Hello baseball. The teenaged Zagorski was up late one night watching television, switching through the channels when he stumbled across a British weekly baseball highlight show.

The show -- and the sport -- intrigued him so much that he made it a point to keep watching the 1 a.m. show and eventually ESPN's Wednesday and Sunday middle-of-the-night broadcasts his cable system offered.

What began as a passing interest turned into a hobby that would take over his life.

"I think it's the purity of baseball that just grabbed me," Zagorski said. "You've got one guy with the ball and you've got one guy with the bat, and he's going to try and hit it. I mean, what wasn't there to love about it? I had the passion almost right away. But I just didn't have an identity."

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So where did he discover that identity? And why is he moving to Northeast Ohio? This is where the girl comes in.

And like his love for baseball, this love began in an unexpected fashion.

Six years ago, the 18-year-old Zagorsky met his future wife, Erin, online in a British chat room.

Luke was yakking it up about The Dandy Warhols, one of his favorite bands. Erin, also 18 and having just graduated from high school in her native Canton, Ohio, was simply asking for advice on the UK's best places to study marine biology.

So the two got to chatting. She, too, liked The Dandy Warhols. And what's more, she loved baseball as well.

Erin was perfect. Several thousand dollars worth of phone calls and six months later, the two were married.

So while Erin never did find that marine biology school, she found a husband. And Luke found a team.

"You're married to an Ohio girl," Erin told him. "So you're going to have to start rooting for my guys."

So he did, and Luke poured his heart into them. He started watching every Tribe game on his computer, scanning the Web for anything and everything written about his club, and he began stuffing his house with Indians paraphernalia.

Pennants, signed balls, an Indians clock, a framed "Pronkville" shirt, posters and jerseys. Luke scans eBay for pretty much any trinket with a Tribe logo.

It's his passion for Cleveland that made following his wife to her native land -- she missed her family and friends -- so easy.

Sure, his friends and co-workers thought his baseball devotion was nuts. But who cares?

Even on those days he haggardly lugged himself into work, Luke made it, as long he had his Indians.

"He'd be fine, as long as he had access to his computer," Erin said, laughing. "I know it sounds like he had some kind of dependency problem."

Good thing the cure will soon be right around the corner.

David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.