Then sit back and watch all the neat stuff pour in.
That's what Michael Volpe, 44, did this winter and, boy, is he having a field day. Genuinely ticked at San Francisco for trading Matt Williams to the Indians for what he termed ``three warm bodies,'' Volpe fired off a letter to the Giants, resigning as a fan of theirs, sending along the hats he wore on his journeys to see them and other team memorabilia.
``I essentially divorced them,'' he said.
Then he mailed a letter to every other team, with eight questions attached. Answer the questions, he said, if you want my support. Nineteen out of 29 teams responded, but only 10 addressed such questions as, ``If I become attached to your team, what promises can you offer that your best players will not be traded or leave due to free agency?''
Nearly all of them sent stuff. Mets and Dodgers hats, autographed pictures of the Orioles, even $100 Starter jackets from a few teams. It all started arriving at Volpe's home in Falls Church, Va., a few weeks after the letters went out. Then, one snowy evening, Jan. 9, an intern from the minor league Durham Bulls named Ryan Fay pulled into his driveway with a carload of stuff and no place to sleep.
He slept in the driveway.
``I'm up early anyway that day,'' Volpe said. ``I look out the window and I see this kid. He had a big sign that said, `Mike Volpe, we want you as the Bulls' No. 1 fan.'
``I said, `This is above and beyond the call of duty, but you've got to get out of here. This is a private driveway, and I'm nervous enough. I've got to go on the `Today' show.' ''
He did, too, and after that ``Good Morning America.'' Soon he will be seen on ``48 Hours.'' Volpe has been on lots of local television, too, in big towns such as New York, Baltimore and, yes, Philly. Those are just a few of the towns he visited. While here, he dined with Phillies general manager Lee Thomas and manager Terry Francona, and pitched a few balls to the Phanatic inside Veterans Stadium.
Thanks largely to a heartfelt response by Phillies promotions manager John Brazer, the Phillies are one of nine teams still in contention for Volpe's allegiance. The others are the Orioles, Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Astros, Diamondbacks and Marlins.
Brazer's five-page letter of a month ago was the most extensive Volpe received, and among ones he deemed ``sincere.'' In response to Question 5, ``What benefits will I ultimately derive from following your team?'' Brazer concludes his answer:
``To be a Phillies fan you must have hope in your veins, fealty in your heart, comfort in your soul and a lump in your throat!''
Born in New York's Greenwich Village and a lifelong follower of the National League, Volpe even has Philadelphia ties. His wife, Mary Beth, grew up in Lansdowne, and his in-laws still live in the area. A college buddy lives in Wayne. He said he also doesn't mind the Vet, but he wasn't too fond of the Phanatic pulling off his cap and rubbing his balding head upon his arrival three weeks ago.
Still, you would think the Phils, with a professed youth movement and a new ballpark possibly in their future, would hold an edge over other teams.
Until you hear about other teams' pitches.
The Orioles, who regularly draw sellout crowds to their sparkling park, also set up a lunch with executives. General manager Pat Gillick pitched his role model, Cal Ripken, as a compelling reason to root for the team, but Volpe swung back hard by mentioning Roberto Alomar. ``I coach Little League and we teach our kids to respect umpires,'' Volpe said, summing up his comments to Gillick. ``What are my kids supposed to think when they see Alomar spitting at one?''
As if they need more fans, the Dodgers have called, sent letters, and invited him to spring training. They also sent two wool caps, cooler bags and sport bags for Volpe's two Little League sons, Ross and Andrew, saying, ``They are in no way bribery.''
Of course not.
Later in the same letter, the Dodgers promised, ``There will be more goodies in the near future.''
The goodies and attention have made Volpe, a marketing consultant, more than a little uneasy. He's turned down free trips and hotel rooms, and has donated all but one piece of memorabilia to a charity auction that will be held this spring, the proceeds going to build a library for St. James Catholic School in Falls Church, which his sons attend.
The one exception is a ball autographed by Francona and a few Phillies. Volpe gave that to four Philadelphia-born nuns who teach at the school.
For Phillies fans looking for hope this spring, this might be the best news yet.
One, Sister Marie, brings the ball to chapel every day.
``She leaves it on the altar,'' Volpe said. ``She's hoping that enough prayers build up on the ball that the Phillies have a fantastic year.''
By then, Volpe hopes to be aligned with some team. He said he will decide the last week of spring training, although pressure to do it sooner is already mounting. ``Today'' wanted him to announce his choice exclusively on Opening Day. He turned it down.
One East Coast team, which he refused to identify, promised him the opportunity to throw out the first ball if he selected them immediately. He turned it down, too.
``It was underhanded the way they tried to buy me off,'' he said. ``That's totally what I'm railing against.''
Newspapers, magazines and tabloid TV shows also have asked for exclusives. Instead, he will hold his own news conference to announce his decision. He's spent around $2,500 of his money to find the right team and he wants his decision to be as sincere as some of the correspondence he received. That's why he gave away all that neat stuff.
``I'll choose,'' he said, ``on my own terms.''
For most of his suitors, that's fine.
``We're just happy he's going to remain a baseball fan,'' Baltimore public relations director John Maroon said.
Wrote acting commissioner Bud Selig, ``I am delighted the clubs are being so sensitive in their response to you.''
``I think all clubs are basically trying to treat him as a symbol,'' Maroon said. ``That's what I try to tell our fans who call and say, `What about us?'
``Teams are trying to tell all fans that we care by treating this guy's concerns seriously.''
Some, though, have had enough. Especially as Volpe has made calls and sent followup letters that sometimes request further attention.
``I've kind of had it with him,'' said one baseball official, who asked not to be named. ``I like him, he came up with a cool idea . . . But now I really want him to go away.''