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Daytona 'superfan' hits 1,000 straight
'Front Row Joe' reaches milestone mark on Wednesday
04/21/2010 6:38 PM ET
Joe Rowe once attended a Daytona Cubs game the day after suffering a seizure.
Joe Rowe once attended a Daytona Cubs game the day after suffering a seizure. (Daytona Cubs)
To the average fan, Wednesday's match-up between the Tampa Yankees and Daytona Cubs is just another contest, game No. 14 in a season of 140.

But "Front Row" Joe Rowe is anything but the average fan. Wednesday night marks the 1,000th consecutive game that the die-hard Cubs rooter has attended at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, a streak of baseball perseverance that has very little precedent.

Call it the Daytona 1,000.

The Cubs certainly aren't letting Rowe's feat go unnoticed, as tonight is "Front Row Joe Night" at the stadium. The super-fan will be recognized in a pregame ceremony, and the team will take the field wearing 1995-era retro jerseys in honor of the year the streak began. Furthermore, many concession items will be sold at the throwback price of just one dollar (or "$1.000", as the team is putting it).

The evening's highlight will come when Joe makes the familiar trek to the outfield billboard that keeps track of his streak, personally changing the number over to the vaunted "1,000." But if you ask Joe, it's much ado about nothing.

"It's appreciated, but unnecessary. I'm a low-key guy, not so much into all the hoopla." said Joe, a 30-year resident of Daytona.

Yet Joe describes himself as "boisterous" when it comes to cheering on the team, always ready to engage in some rhythmic clapping or spirited cowbell soloing. He is a fixture of "The Cubbies Den" -- a section of seats near the third base dugout often occupied by the team's most ardent supporters -- and cites the team's Florida State League championships of 2004 and 2008 as two of his happiest moments.

A 55-year-old New Jersey native who grew up rooting for the Yankees, Joe has been attending games at Jackie Robinson Ballpark since the Daytona Cubs' inaugural season of 1993. The streak began in 1995 -- on June 26th of that year, to be exact.

"I love the game of baseball first and foremost, and I thought [the streak] would be unique, something different. I just never expected it to get this big," he said.

Indeed, Joe has displayed an extraordinary commitment to the streak. Most harrowingly, he once suffered a seizure at the ballpark due to low potassium levels.

"I was in and out of the hospital, didn't even stay overnight," he recalled. "I never considered anything else but going to the next day's game."

Perhaps no one is more in awe of Joe's accomplishments than former Daytona general manager Buck Rogers, who installed the "Front Row Joe" billboard in 1998.

"Joe's the most rabid fan there is, but just the nicest guy. His heckling is G-rated. I never heard him say anything bad about anyone," said Rogers, now the general manager of the Southern League's Huntsville Stars. "He's been there through thick and thin. ... I even remember him out there on the field pulling tarp for us."

And thanks to one of Rogers' promotions, Joe never has to pay for entry to the games. In 2001, the team offered free lifetime admission to anyone willing to get a Daytona Cubs tattoo. Joe was one of 17 die-hards to accept the offer, getting the team's logo branded on his right forearm above the letters "FRJ" (Rogers readily admits that he had Joe in mind when the stunt was devised).

But for all of the hoopla surrounding Wednesday's game, in many ways it's just another one in the books for Front Row Joe.

"Bring on 2000," he said. "I'm going to keep this thing going for as long as I can."

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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