North Carolina baseball has a fan from all the way across the globe.
On Tuesday, Chut Techalertavorkul, a North Carolina baseball superfan from Thailand, flew nearly 9,000 miles away from home to see his favorite team play for the first time.
With a smile stretched ear-to-ear, Chut threw the first pitch before a game that saw a dramatic ninth-inning walk-off victory for North Carolina over UNC-Wilmington. The win moved UNC to 8-0 on the season.
Tuesday marked the first time Chut had been to Boshamer Stadium in person, but it hasn’t stopped him from participating in the "Thai Fan Club" he made for himself back home.
Chut's fandom all began seven years ago, late in the 2012 basketball season. Chut was in the United States training for his job. Terry Collins, who was Chut's manager for some time, was with him. According to Collins' post on an Inside Carolina message board, he flew Chut to North Carolina and they traveled twice to Greensboro to watch the 2012 ACC Tournament.
It was the first North Carolina game Chut ever saw, and it was love at first sight.
When basketball season was over that year, and Chut was back in Thailand, he turned to UNC baseball.
Despite never having watched a baseball game before, he spent those next several years away from North Carolina streaming Tar Heel baseball online, staying up late at night to catch games between time zones, and saving up money to one day visit Chapel Hill.
Chut learned the sport so intensely that Collins said that by the end of that first season, Chut “could talk baseball like he grew up playing it.”
Back home in Thailand, Chut found out two months ago that he’d be throwing the first pitch for Tuesday's game. Chut was beside himself, but there was just one problem — he had never thrown a baseball before.
In fact, he wasn’t even sure where to get a baseball from, and searched high and low in Bangkok with no luck finding one. But a friend who had recently traveled to Japan finally gave Chut a ball. From there, it was time to start pitching.
Together, Chut and his wife, Pong, measured out the 60-foot-6-inch stretch from the front of the pitcher's rubber to home plate in order to practice his perfect first pitch. They threw the ball until Pong’s hand ached from inside the oven mitt she’d been using as a glove.
After two months of practice and a long flight to the United States, it was finally Chut’s time to shine on Tuesday afternoon. Greeted by a bright blue sky and a delighted crowd, Chut and Pong stepped up to the mound.
“I was super nervous. When we came out on the field my hands were shaking,” said Chut, who chalked up his less-than-perfect pitch to some pre-game nerves.
But the Tar Heels behind him showed just how spectacular baseball can be at Boshamer Stadium.
With the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Chut may have been hoping for extra innings, but UNC's Dylan Enwiller ended it with one crack of the bat.
With two outs and a full count, the senior hit a solo home run that ended the night with a 4-3 win for North Carolina.
“We beat them with one home run,” said the beaming Chut, standing next to his wife Pong and his friend Collins. “To win like this is super amazing.”
“It’s something he’ll never forget as long as he lives,” said Collins, who introduced Chut to North Carolina sports all those years ago, and who has taught him the sport from across the world.
It was Collins who told UNC head coach Mike Fox about Chut some four or five years ago, and Fox has since sent over UNC gear to the Thai superfan. After Fox was named ACC Coach of the Year last season, he received a letter in the mail from Chut.
“You get an envelope and it’s got ‘Thailand’ on it,” Fox said. “I saved the envelope and everything. It’s pretty cool.”
By game’s end, Chut, Pong and Collins were on their way to watch the men's basketball team play Syracuse at the Smith Center.
“It might be sensory overload,” Collins said.
With his two favorite teams both getting wins on the same night, Chut certainly had a memorable day in Chapel Hill.
@DTHSports | email@example.com
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