Over-the-top Panda fans are heading to Kansas City
Joyce Park stashed this in The Sporting Life
Ever wonder who those nutballs with the giant Panda heads at AT&T park are?
Yes! I love these guys and so does George Brett...
Win or lose Sunday, the Pandas had their plans set: They are heading back to Kansas City. That’s Pablo Sandoval and the four fans who sit in front with huge white Panda heads in their laps and put them on each time the cherubic slugger comes to bat.
They are just fans, not an organized cheerleading section. They won’t claim any specific credit for Sandoval’s success in the postseason, but the Panda heads have been at every post-season game. And as Steve Hsieh, the founding Panda head puts it, “The Panda is interactive. He’s always looking around at the crowd and gives us the thumbs up.”
Panda heads are not to be confused with the regular Panda hats with ear flaps that hang down and resemble the snow hat the sheriff wore in “Fargo.” Panda heads are the size of a float head in the Rose Parade. They cover the wearer’s head completely, with only the lips for eyeholes.
They are unwieldy and suggest a level of dedication to one player not seen in these parts since the “Melk Men” put on milkman whites, with hats and bow ties, to show their love for Melky Cabrera during the Giants’ last World Series run.
Even Lou Seal had a Melk Man uniform, but they all disappeared without a trace the day their hero was caught on performance-enhancing juice and suspended for the season. The Panda heads, who do not have their own nickname, are equally endangered. Sandoval is a free agent after this season, so there is a chance that Sunday’s game might be the last home game for the Panda heads.
“We need to keep him. He is the core,” said Hsieh, 40, a former San Francisco investment banker now working on an education startup. “We have supported him since 2010.”
During that first World Series run, Hsieh, who had worked in Hong Kong, got the inspiration to order a custom-made styrofoam head from China, “where pandas come from,” he said.