September 20, 2013
By Rebecca Herman and Wayne McBrayer
Over the many years I have been attending Padres games, I have seen players come and go. During that time, there were several people not playing on the diamond that stood out. The Tuba Man, Jim Eakle, along with other amateur musicians formed McNamara’s Band. They would go through the stands playing music that would encourage Padres fans to cheer. The KGB Chicken would perform down the left field line and later when he became known as The Famous Chicken, he would perform comedy acts on the field with players and umpires. Harry the Heckler would jawbone the opposing team’s left fielder hoping to get in his head and help the Padres out. There was the young man who suffered from Down’s Syndrome who would walk through the stands selling the Evening Tribune and when he had sold all his papers would walk through the stands with his arms in the air and people would cheer the fact that he had sold all of his papers. All of these people, and I am sure there are others that I never saw or heard of, added to the game and never took away from it. They are all wonderful memories of fans who added their own personal touch to the game from their seats in the stands or for the jobs they were doing. When Petco Park opened, there were changes. Long gone was the Tuba Man, although he ended up opening a local restaurant. The Famous Chicken had become a legend and toured the country and has appeared at many sporting events. Harry the Hecker was still around but I have no idea what happened to the man who sold the paper. There were a couple of new faces like Padres Teri who is a proud Madres member and could be considered the Padres team mom. She always arrives early and sits by the dugout … greeting Padres players coming in after BP and organizing items for the players to sign autographs for various fans. One different and new thing I had never seen in my years of cheering for the Padres was what appeared in the right field area. Men dressed in brown robes yelling out stuff during the game. Who were these guys and what in the heck where they doing? I quickly found out that it was a group of men dressed as Monks who refer to themselves as The Dancing Friars of the Right Field Mission. All of the Monks are diehard Padres fans who wear the robes and have even gone to other stadiums wearing the robes cheering the Padres on. We wanted to know what the motivation was for these monks and who better to answer our questions that Corey Menotti. We sat down with Corey after a Padres game for an interview that we hope you’ll enjoy.
Interview with Corey Menotti …
How long have you been doing this?
Since 2005 … 2006-2007 it really took off a bit more
What motivated you to create this character?
I’ve been here all my life … moved away … came back in 2005 and there was a new ballpark. It seemed that it was a beautiful ballpark but was lacking … hollow … vanilla … no spice. As a kid I enjoyed the Tuba Man and of course, The San Diego Chicken. There was always something going on in the stands. But with the new ballpark, it didn’t seem to be quite the same.
When did you first don the robes?
September 2005 … I rented a Friars costume (for a Dodgers game) … walked around a bit … took some pics … led some cheers. It was fun – pretty basic. Giants came in and I decided to rent it again. Did this maybe 10-12 times in 2006 and it started to get pretty expensive to keep renting costumes. So, for the 2007 season, I bought the robe and then added to it, buying additional ones when I got the chance … now I have about 12 of them. I love that I am to share them with people who join the mission for a game. People love to wear the robe!
What caused you to move into Right Field?
Ishmael was the catalyst. Sally had taken some pictures of me on the big screen so they had an idea who I was or at least what I did. I walked through the Right Field area and Ishmael started shouting … there he is – there he is – there he is! Didn’t want me to leave so I ended up staying the entire game. So the next game, I returned and Luigi pointed out “his” spot … apparently there is a specific ebb and flow for all the people in the Right Field. There is Q Guy – K Dude – you name it. And it seems I was standing in “The Spot” … Luigi says, “Get out of my spot. You’re in my spot. Move out of my spot. It’s my TV spot.” It wasn’t until I watched the replay later that night that I realized it was brilliant – it is right over the pitcher’s shoulder and it is on air almost constantly. So then I realized, they congregated there to bring energy to the ballpark that even fans watching on TV could see. So in 2007, I moved there full-time and the character was formed.
Do you have full season tickets?
Yes – and then some. I actually buy additional tickets each week so I can bring other people to the ballgame – bring the energy – raise the ruckus.
What do you enjoy the most?
Love getting the crowd excited. We have several cheers … such as: Ole Ole Ole Padres Padres and San Diego Go Go Go San Diego Go Go Go are favorites … there’s also, Hey – Por Favor Por Por Favor! Bottom line, I try to keep things positive. No cussing or foul language while in character.
What has been the fan reaction to your antics?
Anyone that joins the Mission is PART of the Mission. It is open and if you want to cheer and be a part of it then you are welcome. We have many people join us each game and some just stop by to see what we are all about, maybe do a chant with us or take a picture. Truly, we are there for all fans and everyone is welcome.
What has been the reaction of the organization – the Padres?
So many different owners through the years. Each had a different feel and energy. Some owners seem to have a bit of a golf mentality … light clapping … ballpark is the quiet zone. But that doesn’t always fit with our fans. Being a “fan” in San Diego is not always an easy thing – it comes with its challenges. Not just Padres but all sports. In general, the “organization” has mostly ignored us through the years. Tom Garfinkel was different; he embraced what we do and took a liking to me. Haven’t seen Mike Dees yet. Pete Sidler and his brother Tom have gone out of their way to talk to me and I’m a big fan … they are fans … I love that!
If you could write the story – what would be going on in three years?
We would win the Pennant. We would have a significant fan base. So much energy that it lifts the team – provides the intangibles that can’t be taught or bought. This place [San Diego] is a hotbed of baseball and there is no limit … this is baseball Mecca … San Diego is baseball! The championship will fill the stands and have community support for years to come. It feeds on itself.
Who is Corey – outside the robes?
A pretty mello guy for the most part. I work in a spa/salon at the Hotel Del – I’m a manager over there so I like to make sure that my persona – my frenetic energy laden madman character is the extreme opposite of what he is in real life, which is this very mellow spa guy that’s all about massages and facials and body wraps. It’s all the same Corey it’s just that this expression is more Machiavellian – more tangible of my expression of love for this city. My father was the football coach at Kearney High School and Madison High School throughout the 70s. We moved to Minnesota where he coached for Bemidji State and then we moved the whole family back here in 1978. I remember always going to games as a kid. This was my HOME. I remember being miserable when I was away from San Diego even though I was young. The first thing we did when we moved back was go to a Padres game. I’ll never forget this … it was Randy Jones – Catfish Hunter – Gaylord Perry on the squad. And they were doing a KFMB commercial … they were frozen in front of their lockers … tried everything to get them to move. Said – hey, Padres will have you start this weekend … nothing. Said – hey, the Dodgers are coming to town this weekend … nothing. Finally, he says, I know what to say – you’ve all been traded! That worked … they started mumbling and moving and changing clothes … and Randy Jones says, “dammit, I just bought a house!” And I knew that Randy had just bought a beautiful house so – as a kid – I believed it and thought the commercial was real and they had been traded. I was a dumb kid. So I told my mom and dad that I had to see a Padres game that weekend.
Wayne … I want to play a word association game with you … tell me the first thing that comes to mind:
Nate Colbert – First game 1973 – remember seeing him and my dad pointing him out and telling me … that guy is a superstar. He hit two home runs that game (my first game ever) and I remember thinking – he is a superstar!
Dave Winfield – (pause for blessing) … love you but you broke my heart … redeemed yourself when you became a hall of famer as a Padres … but when you left me, I cried as a child. Love you.
Ray Kroc – classy guy … quick story. My uncle Charlie and his family all lived in La Jolla on Mt Soledad. On one side of the family is Gene Kline and the other side is the Kroc’s. As a kid, we always played whiffle ball in the yard. I hit a ball real hard and my aunt told me to move home plate to avoid rose bushes … I didn’t understand at the time but every time the ball was hit hard (HR) it would go into the next yard. And every time, this little Mexican lady would come out screaming … Mrs. Kroc, Mrs. Joan … he hit da ball again. Every time, Joan Kroc would come out – shaking her fist – and yell, “get out of here!” My aunt would be tickled and laugh and tell me to keep hitting my homeruns. I learned later that she didn’t like Joan and that was a way of getting back at a passive aggressive woman.
Tony Gwynn – Mr. Padre. I remember taking a picture with him. He touched me on the back of the head and I swear, I’ve never been able to grow hair there!
Terry Kennedy – Really neat man – wonder if he is actually the father of Ian Kennedy. Big man. He was a man mountain – really too big to be a catcher. Blonde hair, chiseled jaw, San Diego type man mountain.
Trevor Hoffman – Dong! Dong! Dong! [and Hell’s Bells continues!] He is the culmination of all the years of having great relievers. He was the capper to closing and he put us on the map.
What a great time hanging out in the Right Field with the Dancing Friars! And fun to visit after the game at Lolita’s too!
We at Padres360 encourage all Padres fans to make a trip to “The Mission” and enjoy the Monks as they cheer the Padres on. They always have extra robes and they enjoy the fans getting involved.
Corey Menotti is The Dancing Friar himself. He was raised in Ramona, CA – graduated from Ramona High School and then UCLA.
Follow Corey on Twitter: @DancingFriar- The Abbot Costello
Give his Facebook Page a Like
Check out his videos on YouTube
Reflections by Wayne McBrayer, TheCasualFan
Interview & Photography by Rebecca Herman, TheBaseballPHD