Cricket through the eyes of two baseball fans in America

Two 25-year-olds come to watch an MLC game to just knock off a bucket list item, only to return home as cricket fans

Former college baseball players Parker Janse and Jeremy Rodriguez backed the Orcas after coming to their first cricket match, San Francisco Unicorns v Seattle Orcas, Major League Cricket, Grand Prairie, July 15, 2023

Former college baseball players Parker Janse and Jeremy Rodriguez backed Seattle Orcas after coming to their first cricket match  •  Peter Della Penna

The national anthem had just finished playing at the Grand Prairie Stadium, and night three of Major League Cricket in Texas was moments away from the first ball. As the players took the field, a pair of 25-year-olds with a Jacob deGrom Texas Rangers jersey and a Ronald Acuna Jr. Atlanta Braves jersey walked with cups of beer in their hands toward their seats on the north side of the stadium.
"Never been [to a cricket match and we're] sports guys so I was like we might as well go watch it one time, go watch some ball and stick," Parker Janse, who played shortstop and second base for the Stephen F Austin University college baseball team in Nacogdoches - known as the Lumberjacks - said. "I live in Dallas, it's on the way home. We'll stop by for the cricket for a little bit."
Janse, along with his dad Kevin - a Dallas police officer - and friend Jeremy Rodriguez, a former team-mate at Stephen F. Austin who is now on the coaching staff for the baseball team as the director of analytics and player development, were along for the ride. Earlier in the day, Janse paid US $325 for seats in the fourth row behind home plate as a birthday gift for his dad to watch the Texas Rangers beat the Cleveland Guardians 2-0. The game ended at 5.35pm, plenty of time to drive seven miles towards Dallas and stop off to buy a $30 ticket at the Grand Prairie Stadium to see San Francisco Unicorns take on Seattle Orcas.
"Before this morning, nothing," Janse said, when asked what he knew about cricket, other than that he also had an ex-girlfriend whose surname was Cricket. "We watched a few YouTube videos to get us ready for it. Kind of like a bucket list thing. We love all sports. We're all in with the Orcas. Save the Orcas! They were handing these flags out [at the entrance gates] so it just solidified that we were going for them. We didn't know who was playing until we walked in."
"That's not true," Rodriguez cut in. "I texted you and said it was the Unicorns and the Orcas."
"I thought that was a joke."
"I was being dead serious."
"I did not realise that it was actually the Unicorns vs the Orcas."
"You wanna know something crazy?" Rodriguez, who is originally from Houston but now lives in Nacogdoches, 180 miles southeast of Grand Prairie, asked. "When we played baseball, we played here at the Airhogs Stadium before it became a cricket place. We used to play here a lot, actually. There used to be a swimming pool over there." Rodriguez pointed to an area behind what used to be the outfield fence where part of the original entertainment zone, including a pool, had been removed to accommodate the renovation of the facility for cricket.
A few minutes into play, Quinton de Kock tried to flick over the leg side and was bowled, drawing the first reaction out of Janse.
"Ohhhh! A wicket! He's out!" Janse shouted.
"That's our guy though," Rodriguez shouted back. "We're on the Orcas. So that's not very exciting… We also know how to read the scoreboard now. Nine runs for one out for Seattle right now. The bowlers get six pitches and then they have to rotate."
A few minutes later, Orcas were back on track as Nauman Anwar hit a four back down the ground off Carmi le Roux straight towards Janse and Rodriguez.
"Ohhh, that's gonna bounce over the fence. That's gonna be four!" Janse shouted as he grabbed his Orcas flag and started waving it vigorously. "That's four! How do you make an Orca sound? Arrrrr Arrrr Arrrr!!!" As Tajinder Singh Dhillon went to retrieve the ball near the boundary rope, Janse broke out the baseball fan-style trash talk. "Hey Dhillon! Probably wish you were on the Orcas, huh pal!"
After a brisk start though, Anwar got out to a short ball he struggled to fend away, popping it up tamely to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. Rodriguez didn't hold back with his disappointment while looking at the replay on the stadium's giant video board.
"Oh, look at that checked swing, Jesus Christ," Rodriguez blurted out before screaming towards Anwar walking off, "Hey! If you're gonna swing the bat, swing it! Let's go!"
"He got jammed!" Janse argued.
"I don't care if he got jammed. Get your bat through the zone and let it rip!"
In the eighth over, cricket's two newest fans were busy heckling Unicorns fielder Chaitanya Bishnoi. He was wearing jersey number 10 and was being shuffled around moving from deep fine leg to being asked to come back to field inside the 30-yard circle at short fine leg. "Ohhh… he is lost! Get this guy a map! Get this guy a map!" Janse shouted.
But then Janse and Rodriguez saw something they had never come across on a baseball field. Shehan Jayasuriya walked across his stumps to play a ramped flick wide of the wicketkeeper for four. Initially, Janse and Rodriguez were slightly confused as Janse proclaimed, "I thought it was a foul ball to the backstop, but it's four runs." Then the replay of the shot was shown from the stump cam angle, eliciting a greater reaction.
"Oh, my god. That was electric! That was electric!" Janse shouted before praising Jayasuriya's shot selection further. "That's situational hitting. He knew that number 10 was lost. He heard me tell him to get a map, so he knew that it was open out here."
At the end of the eighth over, Marcus Stoinis, wearing jersey number 17 for Unicorns, arrived nearby to field on the long-off boundary. Janse and Rodriguez didn't hesitate to engage him.
"It's quite a personal stadium in terms of like you can interact with the crowd. The crowd feels close, and you can hear what they're saying and stuff like that, so it's good to have a chat."
Marcus Stoinis
"Seventeen, I need your bicep curl routine," Janse shouted. "That's a hammer curl guy. You do a lot of hammers, a lotta hammer curls."
Stoinis couldn't help but crack a smile before making the hammer curl motion while looking at Janse and Rodriguez, prompting the latter to scream, "Yeaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!"
"I can tell you're rippin the hammer curls," Janse shouted out again before turning to Rodriguez with further analysis. "He's 100% jacked. He's humongous. He would eat me."
A short while after this exchange, two MLC employees came by to say hello to these passionate and boisterous first-time fans. They were Christopher White, brother of Unicorns squad member David White, and Zubin Surkari. When Janse and Rodriguez were informed that Surkari's most famous cricket moment was being hit in the box by a 95 mph full toss from Shaun Tait when Canada played Australia in the 2011 World Cup in India, Janse went straight to his phone to look it up on YouTube.
Rodriguez: "Oh my god. You look in agony! You're in so much pain."
Janse: "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh…. Oh my god. I'm so sorry! Ohhhhhhhhh…."
Rodriguez: "Are you friends with that guy?"
Surkari: "He bought me a beer afterward."
Rodriguez: "How many sixes did you hit off him?"
Surkari: "I was out next ball."


A few overs later, new batter Shimron Hetmyer skied a chance over short third where Haris Rauf, wearing jersey number 97 for Unicorns, backpedalled but couldn't hold on to a chance. As the ball was in the air, Janse could see it was going to be a tough one.
"You're not catching that…. Told you! Ohhhhhhh…. Butterfingers!" Janse shouted. "Lay off the chicken wings there 97!"
"Ninety-seven in speed, zero in ball skills!" Rodriguez layered on top. "It was a can of corn. All he had to do is lay out."
In the next over, Stoinis was back fielding on the long-off boundary where he ran to his right to make an athletic stop, drawing more praise.
"That's great fielding there, 17," Janse shouted. "Yes, sir! Way to push through the ball. Yes, sir! Hammer curls! Hammmeerrrrr currrrrrlsssssss!!!
"Yo 17! How many sixes you got in you today?! Five, four?"
"Hopefully a few!" Stoinis shouted back in between a few laughs.
"I think that means four in Australian," Rodriguez said. "He's gotta be my favorite player. He's 17. Hammer curls. He's sick. He's ripped out of his mind. You know what? I think he just requested a trade to the Orcas. He'll be on the Orcas by the end of the week. Is there a trade deadline coming up? Don't worry, he's gonna be there."
A quick Google search on the phone revealed that Stoinis was nicknamed "Oil", allegedly because his Australian team-mates caught him greasing up tanning oil in the mirror. It only endeared him to Janse and Rodriguez even more as they watched him run from long-on to long-off, pulling double-duty fielding on the straight boundary alternating between overs.
"I love this guy. I love him so much," Janse said. "He's the center fielder, basically. That's Mike Trout. Their best fielder and hits with some ammo. So, he's our favourite player. We're 100% gonna watch his highlights when we get home."
Janse and Rodriguez watched Stoinis bowl the 17th over, cheering on by shouting "Oil! Oilllllll!!" as they got up and walked next to the sightscreen before leaving to go home for the night. After looking to just knock off a bucket list item, they want to come to the stadium and watch more cricket in the future. Stoinis and Unicorns may have lost on the night, but he won two new Texan cricket fans.
"It was a few good interactions," Stoinis told ESPNcricinfo after the game when asked about his particular exchanges with Janse and Rodriguez. "A bit of the usual sort of gym questions, bicep questions and that sort of stuff. So it was good fun, good energy and good supporters. This was much less hostile. This was good banter. Usually, it's a passionate supporter from the other team in the other country. It's quite a personal stadium in terms of like you can interact with the crowd. The crowd feels close, and you can hear what they're saying and stuff like that, so it's good to have a chat with a few of the fans.
"I just think it's great that the American crew are getting engaged with it, and they obviously understand pretty quickly how the sport is going. Even just talking to a few of the security guys, they were loving it. I asked one of them if their mates would be interested in watching cricket and if they'd come down to these games and they said 'absolutely'. So it was nice. It feels like it's being received well. It's exciting for cricket to be played in the US, so hopefully, more and more people come and check it out."

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna