Keith Franklin is known as Super Fan for his extreme support for UC Irvine baseball.

Keith Franklin is known as Super Fan for his extreme support for UC Irvine baseball. (Courtesy of Dale Lowenstein)

He has become almost as big a fixture in the program as squeeze bunts and ace pitchers, though few know his name and fewer still know his story.

Yet almost anyone who has attended a UC Irvine baseball home game the last seven seasons, knows his voice.

Keith Franklin, also known as Super Fan, may sit about three rows up from the backstop screen, between home plate and the Anteaters' on-deck circle, but he is the epicenter of UCI baseball fandom.

Chanting incessantly, eliciting giggles with his sometimes nonsensical nicknames for players, always relentlessly positive about his Anteaters, yet unflinchingly respectful of the opponent, the 46-year-old Costa Mesa resident continually stirs a notoriously sedate collection of ticket holders.

Without him, some believe, Anteater Ballpark might be renamed Library Annex.

"He's great," UCI junior ace Matt Summers said of Franklin, who with a husky voice, a muscular, compact frame adorned with several tattoos, and long brown hair that sways emphatically atop his shoulders, might more resemble an enthusiast of professional wrestling than college baseball. "I love that he's so excited and I wish we had more of him. He loves being out there so much and he's so committed. We really appreciate all his enthusiasm."

Sean Madigan, a fifth-year senior and the Anteaters right fielder, says it's never a challenge to hear Super Fan during the game.

"You could probably hear him from [nearby] University [Avenue]," Madigan said.

"Any time you have a fan that is that dedicated, it's a pretty sweet deal. He definitely does bring energy to the ballpark and that's definitely a good deal."

Franklin, who will be leading the cheers Friday when the Anteaters face Fresno State in the opening game of the Los Angeles Regional at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium at 2 p.m., brings energy, passion, a love for the game to the ballpark.

And, he acknowledges, he also brings a checkered past.

He said his love for baseball began in his native Bronx, N.Y., where the hometown Yankees were his team from the start.

He did not play baseball as a youth, competing in football and wrestling in high school, after his family moved to Santa Ana.

He also gravitated toward anything rebellious, specifically punk rock and less-fortunately drugs.

"I kind of come from the wrong side of the tracks," Franklin said. "We moved to Santa Ana in 1967, and that's where things kind of got crazy. I was very rebellious and pretty much gave the middle finger to everybody. When the drugs came into our neighborhoods, we all got swept up in it."

Franklin said his involvement with drugs eventually led to problems with the law and two separate stints in state prison.

"I did the first term which was 16 months and I got into some altercations, some fighting, so I had some time added to that. And when I got out, I didn't have it right. That's when my real fighting began; the fight to get out of [drug addiction].

"I got in so much trouble [in prison], I was in the level-three yard," he said.

"I was under the gun towers and stuff. I've seen people stabbed. I saw a lot of things people shouldn't see."

Franklin, who served a separate two-year sentence, said his path to sobriety and ultimate happiness was a bit unconventional.