Major Fan: 90-year-old celebrates birthday with baseball game

Published on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 00:24 - Written by Faith Harper, fharper@tylerpaper.com

Lola Binzegger has watched countless Texas Rangers games from her couch, but only one from Globe Life Park stands out.

In celebration of her 90th birthday, she spent a cool Tuesday evening surrounded by family and friends behind the first base foul line watching her favorite team take on the Baltimore Orioles.

She even got to stand on home plate during the dot races in the sixth inning. The game features three dots — one green, one red and one blue — racing full speed to home plate, with Mrs. Binzegger holding the finish line. The best part, she said, was standing at ground level for about an inning before the race.

“I thought it was great,” she said. “I loved going out on the field, and that was the perfect spot to wait to go onto the field for over an inning. ... We could really see things down there, and you think, ‘oh, wow.’”

Mrs. Binzegger, a recent transplant to Atria Copeland Senior Living in Tyler, was known as a slugger within her family in her small hometown in the Panhandle, but was not a fan of watching the sport until about 15 years ago, preferring faster-paced sports like basketball and tennis.

She joked that she was never really an athlete, preferring to play “sit down games,” but in the mind of her younger cousin Clyde, she was a pro.

“Growing up, we didn’t have TVs, so we would get outside and play baseball, and I was much older than him — the oldest in our little group of cousins— and I could always hit the ball further than the rest of them,” she said. “He thought I was such a good baseball player, but I was just 12 years old.”

Mrs. Binzegger’s family often attended minor league games in Amarillo, but her love of baseball grew slowly. She said it started with watching the World Series with her husband of 66 years, John.

“We started watching the World Series, and we just got into it,” she said. “It just sort of happened.”

Her late husband favored the sport, and she didn’t start loving the game until he began to lose his hearing and vision due to Macular Degeneration.

“He got to where he couldn’t see the TV as good, and he couldn’t hear, so she ended up being the commentator,” her daughter Bari Walker, of Tyler, said. “They would watch together and she would have to say who was up, how many balls and how many strikes.”

The couple even upgraded to a large 55-inch flat screen to help him see the screen better, but Mrs. Binzegger was still his sportscaster.

After her husband passed about two years ago, Mrs. Binzegger moved from her home in Amarillo to Tyler to be closer to family but never missed a single game on TV.

“I don’t keep up with all the teams, I just really like the Rangers,” she said.

Aeriel Holte, Engage Life Director at Atria Copeland, said “Ms. Lola” is a kind and caring woman who goes out of her way to make others feel welcome and loved.

“With the help of her family and the Texas Rangers, she got the opportunity of a lifetime to be on the field at Globe Life Ballpark with 30,000 people cheering her on,” Mrs. Holte said. “The look of elation on her face when returned to seat was one I’ll never forget. This experience couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.”

Mrs. Binzegger said it was an experience she would love to repeat, even though the game ended in a defeat with the Orioles putting eight points on the board to the Ranger’s three.

She said following the ball was more difficult from the stands, but TV cameras cannot capture the energy felt in the stadium.

“The ball, it goes so high you don’t realize how strong those guys are,” she said. “When they hit a home run and the ball goes so far, I don’t know how they catch it all the time.”