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Season ticket holder Yahr absorbs all things Cougars

Published: Friday, June 27, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST
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(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Bob Yahr of Elmhurst has been a Kane County Cougars season ticket holder since 2002.

GENEVA – Bob Yahr marked 6:31 p.m. on his scorecard Tuesday, documenting the exact time Cougars right-hander Paul Blackburn threw his first pitch against Wisconsin.

The flavor of Yahr's favorite concession delicacies still delighted his taste buds as relaxation and Timber Rattlers center fielder Johnny Davis dug in.

While Yahr remains partial to ordering a pork chop sandwich with a Domaine DuPage, a recent omission from his Fifth Third Bank Ballpark routine seems to have heightened the longtime season ticket holder's experience.

"For a couple years, I kept track of pitches," Yahr said. "But then I realized I was so focused on the game, I couldn't talk to anyone."

Not a chance. Don't visit Section 106, Row D, Seat 12 unless you plan on hearing Yahr yak.

"Right now, he dabbles in useless information," winked Jody Lay, the woman one row ahead of Yahr, seated behind the Cougars' dugout on the first base side.

"That's why we never got too friendly with Bob," Warren Drewes said with a grin from a few spots to Lay's left.

It's all good-natured ribbing, the kind Yahr returns when he senses an opening or the opportunity for a pun.

He isn't making up for lost time, although Yahr has sprouted his share of zingers while commuting from his Elmhurst home to Milwaukee three times a week for 20 years. The Marquette accounting professor is simply at ease, "getting his kicks in Section 106," as he puts it, in a breeding ground for innocent fun.

Asked whether it's natural a groomer of accountants would become friends with someone like him, recently retired West Aurora math teacher Bob James offered this quip from Row D, Seat 13:

"Well, we have a number of things in common," James said.

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Yahr bought season tickets beginning in the 2002 season and has been situated around the Cougars' dugout since. He and James both attest that water balloons usually are greater potential threats than foul balls.

Yahr traditionally misses a few games in April and early May – Yahr, 66, teaches on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – but settles into his routine once he grades the last of his students' final exams.

Doctors diagnosed Yahr with prostate cancer in April, but gave him a 97 percent chance of recovery. He has traveled to Glenview for daily chemotherapy treatments since May 12 and has just a couple weeks' worth left.

"I'm treating it more as an inconvenience than anything else," Yahr said.

He means the chemotherapy, of course, not baseball. Yahr attended his first Cubs game with his father in 1955 and learned to keep score a few years later.

His scorebook accommodates well more than the 70 home games the Cougars play each season. This summer, thumbing through the pages provides an extra jolt of nostalgia.

"Vacations are nice, but unfortunately, some summers aren't what you want them to be, and that's what I've got," Yahr said. "So thank God I've got these games to go out to and listen to them on the radio and just enjoy what's happening."

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Through the years, Yahr also has missed a few Cougars games due to conflicts with Blackhawks playoff games. He beams when discussing all things sports, and uses the platform as a timeline when asked when he started at Marquette.

In August 1977, he says, five months after Al McGuire coached the Marquette men's basketball team to an NCAA title.

Yahr and his wife, Elizabeth, raised four children – three sons and a daughter – in Waukesha, Wisconsin, before splitting in 1994. Yahr relocated to his boyhood home in Elmhurst as he took a sabbatical the same year, feeling it was the right thing to do after his parents died.

Richard Yahr, the couple's oldest child, was born in 1979 and is serving in Afghanistan in his final weeks as a first lieutenant in the United States Army. His daughter recently turned three months old, and Richard Yahr only has been able to see her via Skype thus far.

"Yeah, technology's great," Bob Yahr said. "Used to be, World War II, you'd write letters, they were censored and you'd just hope they got through. And now they can actually see the people."

Another son, Greg, a former goalkeeper for George Washington men's soccer, is set to visit soon as he takes a break from law school classes and studying. Yahr's son, Christopher, who has Down Syndrome, lives in Wisconsin. His daughter, Laura, is a pharmacist on the West Coast.

Yahr jumps at any opportunity to talk baseball with his children, which must be a treat considering his comfort level even with strangers.

Through the years, Yahr recalls many instances where he heard fans seated nearby wondering which level of affiliated ball they were watching. He politely turns around and goes to bat for Class-A each time.

"Some people just go out two, three times a year; they seem to forget whatever responses were prior years," Yahr said. "I give them some background information, tell them players that they should watch in the lineup. You don't guarantee everything's going to happen. …"

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Naturally, Yahr greeted this reporter with a quip shortly after I settled into a nearby seat to join him for a few innings Tuesday and Wednesday.

Actually, Lay delivered the joke that started the double play, if you're scoring at home.

"Bob, did you hire somebody to write your memoirs?" she said.

"I think he's tired of looking from the press box and wants to suffer the danger of the foul ball and things like that," Yahr replied.

Consider it neither a risk nor a worry.

My pen and notebook made me more conspicuous than the average fan, but gabbing with Yahr never felt like an assignment, what with our easy give-and-take.

After he told me about Richard, I told Yahr about my older brother, Dave, who enlisted in the Navy for four years after high school and was sent off to basic training from a Cardinals game in our native St. Louis.

Mark McGwire homered against the Mets in the iconic summer of 1998, giving enlistees a last taste of the magic they would try to track from boot camp in north suburban Great Lakes, near Sammy Sosa's then- home base of Wrigley Field.

Dave, too, had deployments in the Middle East, traveling there shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"Although the Navy was probably the safest place to be," Yahr said.

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James and Drewes also routinely keep score with Yahr. While they maintain their own books, it's definitely a collaborative effort.

"All the time," James said. "All the time we're, 'Hey, was that a 9-6-3?,' you know. I mean, there's a lot of complicated things going on. We ask each other all the time."

The 106 crew also offers to fetch any concessions if one of them is leaving their post. Yahr usually finds a way to weave a one-liner into those instances, too, and is also friends with several ushers and other staff.

"He's wonderful. Very talkative," said Drewes, a St. Charles resident and longtime season ticket holder and host family parent with his wife, Sam. "Been a great addition."

The Cougars clinched the first half Western Division title earlier this month on a rainy night, and fans stuck around to shower their appreciation.

The club will host at least one postseason game, Game 2 of a best-of-three division semifinal series. First pitch is set for at 6 p.m. Sept. 4, a Thursday.

Yahr figures to be driving north to Milwaukee for classes the following morning, armed with new memories to channel the next time he takes his seat about a half-hour before first pitch.

"Just comfortably sit down, make sure I have enough napkins for that sandwich," Yahr said, "and use that to sort of get ready for the game."

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