Hometown Report

Super fan endorsement for Fullerton’s LoForte is loud and clear

Louisiana Tech's Jonathan Washam (14) slides into a double play as Cal State Fullerton infielder Hank LoForte (9) throws to first base during an NCAA college regional baseball tournament game in Starkville, Miss., Sunday, June 5, 2016. LoForte is a Franklin High School graduate.
Louisiana Tech's Jonathan Washam (14) slides into a double play as Cal State Fullerton infielder Hank LoForte (9) throws to first base during an NCAA college regional baseball tournament game in Starkville, Miss., Sunday, June 5, 2016. LoForte is a Franklin High School graduate. Associated Press File

The super fan is shirtless and hairy. Shag carpet hairy.

He wears a kilt and boots with leather arm bands. He relentlessly cheers on his beloved Cal State Fullerton baseball team, parading through the Sunken Diamond seats with a thunderous clap or plea, long locks snaking underneath his orange hard hat and bouncing at mid back.

“Come on, Brother!” he bellowed in a deep throaty snarl Thursday afternoon at Stanford when BYU was playing the Titans in an NCAA Regional. Think Ted Nugent in appearance with a similarly intense gaze and that’s super fan.

“Hanky Panky,” he offered, “let’s go!”

That endorsement was for Fullerton’s sophomore designated hitter Hank LoForte, the Franklin High School graduate who perks up when super fan unleashes his vocals. The fan’s name is Keith Franklin, and his real trade is as a welder.

Kids love him and flock to him at games. Players appreciate him, too.

“Oh, he really gets us going, has nicknames for all of us,” LoForte said. “I hear him. He’s fun. He’ll talk to the team. He’s on the bus sometimes. Great guy with a lot of energy.”

Hanky Panky has given Titans followers plenty to yell about. He is all of 5-foot-6, but he’s a bundle of boundless energy and production, and he played a paramount role in Fullerton winning the Stanford Regional in their quest to reach the College World Series.

LoForte entered the postseason with eight hits in his previous 12 games. He produced three hits and three RBIs in a 13-2 win over BYU, then walked in three at-bats in a 4-1 victory over Stanford on Friday. LoForte had a hit and a walk in the clinching 4-2 decision to take the Regional over Stanford on Saturday.

Fullerton is in the postseason for the 39th time in the program’s 43 years as a Division I program, and it is in the playoffs for the 26th consecutive season as one of the true titans of the sport.

That pedigree is what drew LoForte to Orange County. LoForte is studying communications with the design to get into sports entertainment. He packed in 18 units in the fall and 15 this spring, attacking each like balls and strikes in the batter’s box.

“We’re keeping the mojo going,” LoForte said. “I’m having a great time. We have good chemistry. We get along well. Everything is going great.”

LoForte would prefer to play on defense. He was a four-year starter in high school, a wizard in the infield. At Fullerton, he understood in a hurry that standout freshman Sahid Valenzuela is too good to not start at second. Valenzuela was the Big West Freshman of the Year and leads the Titans with 21 multi-hit games.

LoForte was batting. 242 in 32 starts at DH entering the Stanford Regional.

“It was tough at first, not starting on defense,” LoForte said. “I’m so used to playing the field. It’s hard sitting sometimes. You want to play. But I have a good grasp of it now. Coach (Rich Vanderhook) wanted me in the lineup for my bat, and our second baseman is an All-American freshman, so can’t be mad at that.”

LoForte grew up with baseball. His father Brian LoForte coached him in youth ball and has been his biggest fan since the start. The elder LoForte coached championship teams at McClatchy and was later the baseball coach and athletic director at Laguna Creek.

Brian LoForte is a regular at Fullerton games, just as much as super fan. Only pop sits and studies the action, quietly.

“My dad, learned everything from him,” LoForte said admiringly. “We’ve had fun with it.”

Super fan would surely agree.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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