The Hong Kong baseball fan whose home run catch went viral, and scored teen dinner with his beloved Los Angeles Angels
Superfan Fergus Chan worked 12-hour days to save the money for a solo trip to the US to follow the LA Angels. After catching a home run ball, he was courted by media, met the team, ate with them and even stayed at a player’s house
Hong Kong teenager Fergus Chan Chun-lai is still excited about his recent brush with fame in North America. The self-proclaimed superfan of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team was in the right place at the right time this summer when he caught a home run at their stadium.
The televised replay of his moment of joy went viral, and he was invited to the clubhouse and to dinner with players after it was revealed that Fergus, 17, had travelled alone to the US from Hong Kong to cheer on the team.
— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) July 30, 2017
Fergus, who American media have dubbed the “Ultimate Angels Fan”, took off on July 13 across the Pacific Ocean to watch 23 Angels games in 30 days.
His parents gave him half the money he needed for the summer excursion; the rest he earned by working for them 12 hours a day for a minimum wage. His parents are “exhibition curators”, he says, organising exhibitions for shopping malls. Fergus helped them by selling and restocking merchandise.
“Next year if I come back [from university in Britain], I have the opportunity to work as a supervisor and make HK$40 (US$5) an hour. It’s only a few dollars more but it’s not too bad,” he says with a grin.
Fergus says he’s only been hooked on baseball for 2½ years. In 2015, he was in Los Angeles representing Hong Kong in a tennis tournament, but crashed out early. With little to do, and staying next to Angel Stadium of Anaheim, he decided to sneak out and watch a day game. For his transgression he was grounded for half a day, but says it was worth it.
“The point about baseball is that it’s a fun game, and apart from that there’s no time limit, so anything can happen. It’s not like the 88th minute in football where if you’re leading by a goal or two, you’re pretty much guaranteed to win,” he says. “Baseball’s different – there’s no point in killing time because there is no time limit ... I think it’s just a really beautiful game.”
This isn’t the first time he has travelled alone in the US to follow the Angels. Last year he watched nine games in nine days. That time his parents footed the bill. “They didn’t mind me going by myself, but I had to plan the hotels so they could book them for me. But this time, when I said I wanted to go again, they said I had to pay for it myself.”
Although Fergus wants to be either an economist or a financial analyst, he can’t remember exactly how much money he saved up for this year’s summer trip. He thinks it was between HK$18,000 and HK$20,000. He was very careful to budget his money – with daily spending of about US$40 for accommodation, US$18 for food, and US$9 for a ticket to the baseball game.
For home games, he was able to rent a bedroom at the home of a friend of a friend who lived next to the Angel Stadium; in Toronto he shared a room; and in Cleveland, where he was concerned about his safety, he got a room in the cheapest hotel near the baseball stadium.
“Most of the tickets I bought were US$9 tickets, but then I got really good seats because I moved down bit by bit until I got to the bottom. That’s a really cool trick I did,” says Fergus.
He says it was a thrill being in the stands cheering his team on, and then, 10 days into his trip, came that fateful moment. It was July 23 and he remembers the time was exactly 12.37pm.
The Angels were playing a home game against the Boston Red Sox, and at the bottom of the sixth inning Mike Trout was at the plate to bat. Trout hit a home run that flew right into Fergus’ gloved hand.
Footage of Fergus jumping up and down with a goofy smile on his face made the teenager an instant media sensation in baseball circles – and around the world.
“When I caught the ball I knew it would be viral, but not to that extent,” he says. The Angels went on to win 7-3.
After he posted a photo of the ball on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook, his friends “started going mad”. Fergus quickly gained a large following on social media and earned the nickname “Mr. Worldwide” after the rapper Pitbull’s stage name.
“Whenever I friended someone [on social media] from Angel Stadium, they would post a GIF of Pitbull singing. And then they started calling me ‘Mr. Worldwide’,” he says.
Media interviews quickly followed – Angels broadcasters Kent French and Jose Mota talked to him, and there was looped footage of Fergus catching the ball shown on the Major Baseball League network. The local paper, The Orange County Register, wrote a story about him.
Everyone was asking: who is this kid from Hong Kong and what is he doing in the US without his parents?
“That’s what everybody was asking ... but I feel if you work hard enough to earn so much money on your own, you’re independent enough to live on your own, you’ll know how money works.”
His mother would text him three times a day and try to call daily to check if he was eating properly. Other than that he was pretty much on his own.
Following the media coverage, Fergus went on to become a minor celebrity on the Angels circuit. He was invited to the team’s clubhouse, where he got to meet all the players – and where Trout gave him a signed bat. When he followed the Angels to Toronto, the team invited him onto the field in front of tens of thousands of baseball fans for batting and catching practice. Then two Angels’ rookies, Kenyan Middleton and Parker Bridwell, invited him to dinner, which was a step up from his daily fast-food diet of McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr and Denny’s.
“Kenyan took me out to have steak with his family in Toronto, and the Bridwells – his mother, his dad, his girlfriend, his best friend – took me to the Cheesecake Factory and it was really good.”
One night, when Fergus’ hotel reservation fell through, Middleton even let him stay the night at his home.
“The reason I like them the most is because they always stand around the right field during batting practice, and I would always be the first one down there,” Fergus says. “I would ask them how it’s going and tell them to keep it up. I try to be friends with them. They are really hard working and honest. It’s their first year in the big leagues so I feel it’s an achievement for them to be there.”
During his month-long odyssey, Fergus says, he learned more about what it means to be a super fan.
“Ball players are just normal people. They are easy to become friends with. You see a lot of people say, ‘Give me a ball’, but going to ball games is not supposed to be like that. You’re not supposed to ask for a souvenir; you’re supposed to be given a souvenir. And I feel that interacting with players is more important than being given a ball, like helping them, motivating them. That’s the most important part of being a fan.”
Perhaps more important to Fergus than collecting autographed souvenirs, including several balls and Mike Trout’s bat and batting gloves – enough to build a shrine in his room – is spreading his love of baseball to Hong Kong.
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“I really want Hong Kong to participate in the World Baseball Classic. It’s like the World Cup of baseball. Last year the United States won. And over the next 10 or 20 years, I want Hong Kong to participate in that.
“When I come back in the summer, I want to be good enough to represent Hong Kong in the national team. That’s one of my dreams. And I’ve always loved coaching and I want to coach for free for different people, including those with special needs. I want to promote baseball further. I just want to share what I really love about baseball with the world, not just keep it to myself. I feel sharing is caring.”