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'Fans for Change' ready for Pirates protest

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In the mid-afternoon heat, Andy Chomos stood in a long-sleeved green dress shirt and slacks in front of the Roberto Clemente statue outside PNC Park, sweat running down his face.

Chomos, one of three men organizing what they hope will be a sizeable fan walkout during Saturday's Pirates game, held a Ronny Paulino bobblehead as he addressed the gathered media.

"Don't let this bobblehead replace the legacy that man created," Chomos said, looking back at the statue. "Bobbleheads, blankets, trinkets. ... We all have enough (stuff) in our house."

Chomos' group, called Fans for Change, held a news conference Tuesday to promote Saturday's protest, which begins with a 5 p.m. rally on Federal Street.

Protest organizers believe that over the past 14 years, all losing seasons by the Pirates, fans have been "dumbed down" to be excited about giveaways and hopeful for a .500 season, while ownership pockets profits without improving the team.

To show their dissatisfaction, the Fans for Change plan calls for fans to leave their seats and walk to the concourse at the end of the third inning Saturday night.

Whether fans want to return to their seats, Chomos said, is up to them.

"We're hoping that, at some point, there's a response from the Pirates that season ticket holders can grab on to and use to make an informed decision whether or not to renew their season tickets next year," he said. "If the Pirates make no commitment to improving the quality of play on the field, I don't think season ticket holders or corporate sponsors should be required to make that commitment (to buy tickets)."

Chomos doesn't know how many people will join them for the pre-game protest or in the walkout, but he said the grassroots, Internet-fueled effort already has received enough attention to be considered a success.

"I think if we get 15,000 people to walk out into the concourse, get half the stadium empty (it would be a success)," Chomos said. "But more than that, I view this as a success already because there's been more talk among the season ticket holders and the fan base about this issue already that this has really stirred the passion again in terms of what can fix Pirates baseball.

"In many ways, I feel it's already a victory."

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