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MILWAUKEE — Granted, it was a small sample size and they were Brewers fans. But of the 40 or so people I spoke with in the concourse at Miller Park the other night, I didn't come across one who wasn't willing to forgive Josh Hader for the tweets he posted as a misguided teen in 2011.
No one condoned the racist, homophobic and misogynist words in his tweets, and most expressed disappointment in the relief pitcher. But there was no anger, no indignation, no sharp rebuke. Not a single Hader hater in the bunch.
Antonio McDaniel, an African-American from Milwaukee, said Hader's words "made me feel uncomfortable." But McDaniel was able to shrug them off.
"I won't hold it against him," he said. "I'll support him. He's a good player."
Whether these fans represented the larger community is debatable, though Hader did receive a standing ovation from the home crowd Saturday in his first appearance since the All-Star Game Twitter revelations.
Certainly, some people who don't cheer for the Brewers reacted differently to the news that broke while Hader was on the mound at the All-Star Game. Many have taken to social media to blast the pitcher and question the sincerity of his apology to his teammates, to Major League Baseball and to baseball fans.
But if you saw the tears gather in the corners of his eyes and his lips quiver while he addressed the media Friday night, if you saw the pain on his face, you wouldn't for one second doubt that he was genuinely sorry for what he wrote seven years ago, before he pitched one inning of professional baseball.
"We easily forgive and forget if he does the right thing," said John Grundman of Mukwonago, Wisconsin. "I think he's been sincere in his apology and it's a good first step. I'm sure being in baseball, being around people of color, he's learned a lot and changed and grown up."
Sherri Frost of West Allis, Wisconsin, agreed.
"He was a 17-year-old kid," she said. "They do stupid things. I don't think that's really him as a man. Just the way he's reacted. He owned up to it. He didn't make excuses. He apologized."
Don Schneekloth of Neenah, Wisconsin, said Hader's tweets had been a topic of discussion in his golf league Thursday and that "everybody was 100 percent behind him."
"It's inappropriate what he did, but it was a long time ago," he said. "I have kids that are young and they do stupid things. I think it's crazy that they dig this up now. Who knows what kind of peer pressure there was around him?"
Schneekloth was wearing a Ryan Braun jersey and said it took him a long time to get over Braun's PED use and the outfielder's cover-up and lies. Hader's poor judgment as a teen, Schneekloth said, did not rise to that level, though the words and phrases the pitcher used were vile and repugnant.
"I think it will go away quickly," he said. "For Josh, this is a drop in the bucket."
Debra Weiner of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, who attended the game with Frost, said, "(Braun) was a grown-up and he lied. This is different."
While many Brewers fans seemed satisfied with Hader's apology and were ready to move on, the 24-year-old reliever can't expect the same treatment on the road. The bullpens in most stadiums typically are located in close proximity to bleachers or outfield seating and Hader is bound to be subjected to some verbal abuse. He's likely to hear some things that are as ugly as his long-ago tweets.
"He's going to catch a lot of heat in other stadiums," said Jeff Schutts of Hudson, Wisconsin. "I feel bad for him. I think it's going to affect the team. It's a big distraction."
Grundman said the whole episode could serve as a teaching moment, and not only for baseball players.
"This might make people think a little more about their own beliefs," he said.
As far as Weiner was concerned, Hader's tweets were wrong and offensive but in the bigger picture they weren't something to get worked up over.
"At the risk of being political, I'm a lot more worried about what our president is doing," she said. "Josh is OK."
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