In summer 2012, lawyer Laurence Leavy was late to a Miami Heat playoff game. Before the matchup began, the team had laid out white T-shirts on every seat so the crowd would match. "But somebody had stolen my shirt," he remembers, so he remained in a gaudy bright-orange Marlins jersey he had been wearing all day.
"When I walked in," he recalls, "the Heat were losing." But then, miraculously, Miami's fortunes changed. The team won that game, so the next three games, Leavy wore his Marlins jersey. The winning continued. "Game 4, my date said, 'I'm not going with you if you wear that ugly orange.'?" he recalls. "So I wore a D-Wade jersey, and the Heat lost. Everyone went crazy and blamed me." The Marlins gear went back on — and stayed.
Leavy has since become known to sports fans nationwide as "Marlins Man" for his Where's Waldo-esque ability to show up at every major sporting event in the country — 90-odd World Series games, almost 30 Super Bowls, and the greatest event he's seen in his life, this year's Belmont Stakes, where he watched American Pharaoh
Growing up with a sports-fanatic dad, Leavy says, "I didn't miss a Dolphins game for literally 40 years." He's had Marlins season tickets since the team was founded in 1993. With no wife or children, he had money to burn as his workers' comp law career picked up and he sold racehorses through his Starship Stables ("I'm bigger in horseracing," he says, claiming to own about 100 horses.) After a breakup 15 years ago, he began traveling to catch teams live, forking over as much as $8,000 per ticket.
He always brought friends along, but in recent years he began handing tickets to strangers — usually elderly people, kids, or veterans hanging out outside the stadiums. "For every 20 tickets I give away, I pick up 15 new friends," he says. So far this year, he's given away 920 tickets, asking only that beneficiaries in turn do a good deed for someone else. One guy bought groceries for the needy; a little kid gave away a fly ball to a handicapped child, and so on.
Leavy says he gets mobbed from Wrigley Field to Yankee Stadium. He's become a hero in Kansas City for using his notoriety to help firefighters. He says he's declined book deals and reality TV shows but recently met Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and his wife at a function. He hopes the team will seize on some of his promotional ideas — maybe "Marlins Man Mondays."
"As I convert more cities, it's going to get bigger," he promises. "I'm still in the first inning of this." He intends to spark a pay-it-forward movement in every city with a Major League Baseball team. "I'm gonna get 'em. I'm gonna get 'em all."