AMERICAN baseball fans have found a new hero — a burly, bearded sandal-shod enthusiast who dresses in traditional Franciscan garb and leads the cheers for the Atlanta braves.
Known as Brother Francis, he has a habit of leaping on to the players' dug-out in a frenzy of excitement.
"Brother Francis! Brother Francis!" the crowd cheers, drowning out the beer hawkers and hot dog vendors.
Brother Francis raises his broad arms high, his hands tightened to fists, his face flushing with excitement. He leads the stands in a footstomping, hand-clapping chant: "Let's go Braves ... let's go Braves ... let's go Braves ..."
Outside the Braves' stadium, Brother Francis doffs clerical clothing and resumes life as plain Bub Kelly. He is a member of a local Catholic church arid runs a pub called The Pew and Brew. Its sign is a Franciscan friar.
Explaining his link-up with the Braves, Kelly said: "On opening night of this year, I wore my monk's outfit. As the game progressed, our spirits heightened and I just reacted spontaneously, jumping up on the dugout and cheering with the fans. I've been doing it ever since."
Ile claims his Brother Francis character has a different appeal from the Braves' Bleacher Creature or team mascot, Chief Nokahoma.
"I'm just a fan. I'm not paid. I do it because I love it and because the team seems to enjoy it too," he said.