Scotland fans put lives on hold for Tribe
Passionate couple from across the pond makes pilgrimage
CLEVELAND -- Four years ago, baseball meant little to Robert Galbraith. Like most everyone else in his hometown of Glasgow, the 26-year-old chef was a soccer fanatic.
Today, he's in three fantasy baseball leagues, regularly stays up past 3 a.m. to follow his Indians, faithfully posts on the team's message boards and is on the ultimate fan trip to Cleveland.
Robert and his wife, Lynsey, have journeyed here from their Scotland home primarily to witness the first two months of the Indians' season. The couple have no family here and have forfeited two years of vacation to live in a downtown Cleveland apartment through May 20.
But hey, it was the only logical vacation choice. This, after all, is a couple that celebrated their first wedding anniversary last year by watching the Tribe on a computer screen -- outside in their garden while sipping champagne and eating hot dogs.
"You want to spend special occasions doing what you love, right?" Lynsey said.
Right, and the start of a new Tribe season is certainly a special occasion. In fact, the Indians are the sole reason they traveled nearly 5,000 miles across the pond to Cleveland. Forget sightseeing.
"This is an Indians holiday," Robert said.
So celebrate they will. The Galbraiths plan to attend every Tribe home game through the end of May and have designs on traveling to see the Indians play in Baltimore and Minnesota.
"I know, we're pretty extreme," Lynsey said.
How exactly did they become so extreme so rapidly? The story begins in 2003 with Robert and a curious combination of providence, the "Major League" film series, and a dislike for the Yankees.
Robert's sporting love started and ended with the Rangers of the Scottish Premier league. Having grown up playing soccer in the streets, it was the only sport he really followed. Not that there were many choices in his soccer-crazed nation.
Robert, who is a sous-chef at a French restaurant, noticed that a few of his countrymen sported Yankees and Red Sox caps, but the games were seldom televised. And when they were, the five-hour time difference between Scotland and the East Coast made them difficult to see.
Everything changed in October 2003, when Robert accidentally tuned into a World Series game between the Yankees and the Marlins and something sparked. Something drew him in, perhaps the mixture of postseason passion and the game's simplicity. Whatever it was, he was left wanting more.
He made it a point the following season to search out the sport on television. One of the first televised games was between the Indians and the Yankees. He refused to root for the Bronx Bombers.
"Back home, it's always Yankees or Sox caps you see," Robert said. "It would have been easy to jump on that bandwagon."
So why not cheer for the Tribe, a team that oddly seemed familiar after having long ago seen the first two "Major League" films?
"Watching the films, I felt like I knew something about them," Robert said. "About [Cleveland] not being too successful, having gone a long time since winning the World Series."
So, strangely, Robert said, "I began to find myself rooting for the Indians."
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Robert began following the Indians daily, keeping up with their games -- sometimes pitch-by-pitch -- online. When his interest simply became too great, he sprung for MLB.TV late in the 2004 season so he could catch the Indians broadcasts on his computer.
Today, Robert watches nearly every Tribe game. And even though a 7:05 p.m. first pitch in Northeast Ohio means the game starts after midnight in Scotland, Robert almost never signs off before the final out. That would take away the fun of heading on team message boards where he posts as GlasgowIndian, though it does mean plenty of sleepy days of work. He must arrive at the restaurant by 8 a.m.
Lynsey, who was initially skeptical of her husband's nascent passion, now "absolutely loves" the Tribe as well. She couldn't help it.
"In our house, it was baseball or nothing," Lynsey said with a laugh. "If I wanted to have a conversation, it had to be about baseball. So I had to watch it."
She hasn't reached Robert's level of zeal yet, however. Sometimes, she will -- gasp -- fall asleep as early as the seventh inning. But the slumber doesn't last. Robert will inevitably awaken her after the next big Indians play.
"He gets pretty animated, to say the least," Lynsey said.
A trip to Cleveland, the couple's second venture into the States, was the next logical step in their evolution as Indians fans. And though some questioned their Midwestern voyage -- "You're going to Cleveland! Why?" one of Lynsey's friends told her -- they have at last set down in C-Town.
Their welcome? Try 33 inches of snow pummeling downtown and leaving Cleveland without baseball for the first week of its home slate.
But then again, the Tribe's always had a way of shifting the Galbraith's plans. On Robert's birthday, during the final week of the 2005 season, he faced a dilemma: Go out with his wife and friends to celebrate, or stay at home and watch a critical Tribe game.
"I could have had plans, but when it came down to it, it's the Indians and nothing else," Robert said.
As for their next vacation, the Galbraiths already have their plans; Winter Haven and Tribe Spring Training. Where else?
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.