Gary Girmindl was a true Clemson fan

by - Senior Writer -

GREENSBORO, N.C. – We were walking into New Bridge Bank Park in Greensboro Thursday morning, in preparation for Clemson’s ACC tourney game against Virginia, when I saw a very familiar and friendly face walking my way.

Nikki Steele and I were walking up one of the ramps into the stadium when Gary Girmindl, Clemson fan extraordinaire, gave us his usual hello, smile and handshake. Gary, ever on the move, didn’t spend much time talking to us, but headed off with a hearty “Go Tigers.”

We arrived at the ballpark Friday morning to the news that Gary, on his way home from that game, had pulled over to the side of the road, had a heart attack and passed away.

I was heartbroken, and I feel like the Clemson community has lost one of its staunchest supporters, a true fan of the game that simply can't be replaced.

Head baseball coach Jack LeggettJack Leggett
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said that Girmindl was on his mind during Friday’s game.

"We are missing a really close fan of ours," Leggett said. "He meant a lot to our baseball program. He was at many practices and was always down the first base line yelling many positive things for us."

The first time I really got to know Girmindl was in Omaha two years ago, and I have since enjoyed our give and take when I would see him at sporting events. I would point and say, ‘There comes trouble’ and he would grin broadly and say, ‘You know it.’

This past season, as I was walking to my seat on press row during one of the home basketball games, I passed by him and told him I wanted to do a story on him for TigerNet. Gary told me I needed to put my energies elsewhere.

“Ahh, you don’t need to do a story about me,” he said in his deep voice. “Do it on one of the players. Maybe they will play better.”

Typical Gary.

But Gary’s legacy will live on. He had attended almost every Clemson sporting even since 1978. Those who attended baseball games knew his seats just to the first base side of home plate, and during home basketball games he sat just behind press row, in the corner where the cheerleaders sit.

ACC basketball officials would come out and exchange pleasantries with Gary before many of the games – he had attended over 500 consecutive games – but the niceties would end for everyone once the action started. He loved his sports, and players, coaches and officials alike would hear from him if they didn’t live up to his expectations.

I once told him that if he sat behind me on press row and yelled at me while I was trying to write, one of two things would happen – I would either have a nervous breakdown or would write the best story of my life. He just grinned and said we might have to give it a shot.

Gary’s courtside seat might be filled by someone else next season, but I can't imagine anyone ever taking his place. I sat there during the game Friday, wishing I could hear his voice down below me in the crowd, and wondered how someone like Gary could ever be replaced.

Maybe, just maybe, Clemson should permanently reserve that seat. Instead of selling it to someone, it should be given to someone at each game that embodies the Spirit of Clemson, just like Gary. I am not talking about the kid in the wild orange wig who gets out and gyrates with the fake spirit to win a prize pack, but someone who actually represents Clemson and its spirit in a positive way.

The first one I would give it to, and recognize, would be former Tiger swingman Tanner Smith, whose Tanner’s Totes program has brought smiles to children who are fighting the battles of their lives. The next one would go to Daniel Rodriguez, the hopeful Clemson football walk-on that has already served our country and now hopes to play football in Death Valley.

Gary, you will be missed.

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