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Swiss fan goes to great lengths for Tribe

Swiss fan goes to great lengths for Tribe

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Indians fanship extends far beyond the gates of Jacobs Field, and Game Face is looking to tell the stories of fans from overseas. If you or someone you know is a native of a foreign land yet still carries ties to the Tribe, let us know at tribemailbag@yahoo.com. Please include the subject line "Fans Around the World."

Roland Reinhart, a 32-year-old Swiss pipe-cleaning tool designer, figured he had two sporting options when he moved from Germany to "The Land of the Alps" 23 years ago: ice hockey or soccer.

A 9-year-old Reinhart, however, didn't share his countrymen's passion for soccer and felt "it was too late to begin with ice hockey."

Naturally, then, he went a different direction. He chose the Cleveland Indians.

Wait. What?

Yes, a little serendipity, exposure to the movie "Major League" and a Tribe shirt he received as a gift all conspired to turn him into the man who may very well be Switzerland's biggest fan of the feather.

"My friends think I'm crazy," said Reinhart, who does not speak fluent English and was interviewed through several e-mail exchanges.

And why not? Reinhart proudly owns four Indians jerseys, follows the club online daily, plans to map his first trip to the U.S. around the Tribe and has even lied to his boss so he could follow his club during its '90s playoff runs.

All this for a sport that takes a backseat to the likes of Steintossen (flinging a massive rock), Schwingen (a bizarre adaptation of sumo-wrestling) and the ever-popular Hornussen (something involving a puck, a cane and long wooden bats).

But what can the man say? Love is love.

As Reinhart said, "It's just a feeling, difficult to explain it."

Not that he can't give it a shot. Growing up in Germany, Reinhart's first exposure to America's pastime came by way of U.S. servicemen stationed at a nearby Air Force base. He saw the men playing catch on occasion, even joining in one day.

The game seemed interesting enough, yet his passion was not born until he moved to Switzerland in the late '80s. It a was in his first year there, when a relative returned from the States with an Indians T-shirt, that the Tribe seed took root.

A couple of years later, he saw an underdog comedy about those same hapless Indians.

"The fascination for baseball and the Tribe began with the movie 'Major League' with Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes," Reinhart said.

At least that's how he remembers it. Cleveland would be his club. And from that day on, he would begin following them.

He searched out a channel that showed American baseball scores to track the Indians. He began to read every piece of baseball literature he could find. And he picked up a "Triple Play" computer game "to help learn the rules of baseball."

The more he learned, the more he loved it.

"There's a lot of things that make baseball so special," Reinhart said. "[I like] trying to understand the different pitches, the way they move, which pitch is better for which situation. The tactical aspect is so interesting.

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: : :   This Edition: July 25, 2007   : : :

"[Plus], the season is very long. In Europe, a soccer season is about 30 to 36 games, and that's all. When players have got to play more than twice a week, they are complaining about it. But when I look to baseball, with all the games and the distances to travel, I've got so much respect for the players."

Reinhart, too, started to put much the same devotion into his new passion, particularly as the Internet evolved.

Evidence was his routine during Cleveland's run to the 1995 and 1997 World Series. Reinhart needed to find a way to follow the Tribe. But with no Internet access at home and Switzerland being six hours ahead of Cleveland's local time, this would be a problem.

Wait -- his work had an Internet connection, right?

"The situation was crazy," Reinhart said. "I told my boss that I needed more time for my project and I 'worked' all the night."

He lied. That is, unless his project was following the World Series play-by-play on the company computer.

Thankfully, Reinhart must no longer go to these lengths. Today, Reinhart -- now his own boss -- faithfully follows his club online, owns a subscription to MLB.TV and has a network that knows its place when it comes to the Indians.

"Each time somebody in my family or my friends travel to the U.S or Canada, they know that they have to bring me a baseball cap back," Reinhart said.

Soon, Reinhart hopes to make that pilgrimage himself.

Where to? Come on.

"The Tribe will be the first reason to travel over there," Reinhart said. "For me it's a dream. [When] I come to The Jake, I'll smell the atmosphere, living some days what a lot of fans do all the year."

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

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