The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz airs every day on ESPN and ESPN Radio. That would lead most to believe it's a sports show and, at least nominally, it is. Really, however, it is just a vehicle for Le Batard and his co-host and producers to talk about whatever it is they want to talk about that day. It is, as the show has sometimes described itself, "a marching band to nowhere."
Over the past two weeks, what Le Batard and Co. have frequently wanted to talk about is Fort Wayne and a group of the show's fans from Northeast Indiana who have styled themselves the Fort Wayne Five. This group of fans is led by local teacher Joe Caldwell.
In just a few weeks, Caldwell has helped organize a tribute to the Le Batard Show at Parkview Field, which will be held Thursday during the TinCaps' game against the Peoria Chiefs. The event will begin with ESPN 1380 (which carries the Le Batard show every day from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.) and host Brett Rump broadcasting live from Parkview Field at 4 p.m. At 5:35 p.m. fans will be allowed to enter the stadium, where they can go to the center-field concourse to get free specially-made t-shirts that read "#FortWayne5" on the front and "HoosiersForLeBatard" on the back.
Le Batard and co-host Stugotz were not able to make it to Fort Wayne for the event (more on that below), but popular producer Michael Ryan Ruiz, who frequently spouts his own opinions on the show, does plan to make the trip from Miami to the Summit City for the event. Caldwell will throw out a ceremonial first pitch and then fans of the show can gather at the center-field concourse, where there will be a group photo at 7:15 p.m.
"We are a very weird show and the people who follow our show have a very weird allegiance to our weird show," Le Batard said Wednesday on a radio interview with Rump. "I'm hugely flattered by the ridiculousness of what it is they've done there, but I can't say that I'm surprised by it.
"Because when you have someone like Joe (Caldwell) out there who's clearly weird and clearly addicted, he's bothering the mayor, trying to get a day for us that we clearly don't deserve in any way in Fort Wayne. ... The whole thing is a blatant absurdity, but I can't be surprised by it because the people who connect to us like our weirdness and they are similarly weird."
When Le Batard mentions bothering the mayor, he is referring to Caldwell and others' work to get mayor Tom Henry to issue a proclamation from the city honoring the show. Henry obliged and declared Wednesday, July 17 "The Unofficial Dan Le Batard with Stugotz Occurence Day". Henry then went on Le Batard's show Wednesday afternoon to read the proclamation aloud, during which he was accosted by the show's producers and Stugotz jokingly demanding a "Key to the Fort."
"Why are you guys negotiating for more stuff?" Le Batard asked, laughing.
The conversation with the Fort Wayne mayor came a day after the members of the show live on the air donned TinCaps gear sent from Fort Wayne. TinCaps gear was prominently featured for several hours on ESPN on Tuesday as the show's cast discussed preparations for the event at Parkview Field.
During that Tuesday discussion, Le Batard said that he had planned to fly to Fort Wayne for Thursday's event on a chartered plane procured by a local fan of the show. That idea had been set in motion when the show's lawyers nixed it, preventing a Le Batard appearance at the TinCaps game. Le Batard then went on a several-minute long harangue about the lawyers shooting down fun ideas.
"How is it possible that this show is so terrible that we can botch even the gift of a private plane?" Le Batard wondered.
"They're protecting you Dan," Stugotz then offered.
"From what, a private plane?!" Le Batard shouted.
So Le Batard will not be in attendance for the event, but Ruiz will be and the show has also sent clips to be shown on the video board during the TinCaps game.
This whole event came about in just a few weeks time thanks in large part to Caldwell. The longtime listener called in on July 2 to ask a question about Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, a favorite of the Le Batard Show. The show had recently been discussing how Indianapolis, in which it just began broadcasting, has not taken well to the show's off-beat humor and penchant for non-sports tangents.
Caldwell began his question by saying, "I think I'm one of the five people in Indiana that like you." That eventually became the inspiration for the name of the "Fort Wayne Five", which is not really a group of five people, but rather denotes fans of the show in the Fort Wayne area.
A week after Caldwell called in, another caller from the area also called in to ask a question and one of the show's producers jokingly suggested fans from the Fort Wayne area should organize a gathering of Le Batard Show listeners. Caldwell and others took them up on the offer and have made it happen – with the help of the TinCaps and ESPN 1380 – on incredibly short notice.
"In a week, they accomplished more on short notice than this show has ever done on its own," Ruiz said of the Fort Wayne Five.