By Heath Bradley.
As many of you may know Clemson lost a great fan and supporter this past Thursday. Long-time Clemson athletics supporter, Gary Girmindl passed away returning from the ACC baseball tournament game versus Virginia. Girmindl was a true Clemson fan, supporting all teams across campus; you could see his face anywhere from soccer to volleyball, football, even tennis matches. However, there were two places you knew for sure you would see him. Littlejohn Coliseum and Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Girmindl had attended over 550 consecutive home basketball games and countless home baseball games and series over the years. While the players, coaches, and students may have changed. One thing stayed constant, and that was Gary in the stands. He was easy to find sitting courtside, just behind press row at basketball and right down the first base line at baseball. He was always in attendance, rain, sleet, snow, or shine, he was there supporting his Tigers. Gary was well known by Clemson players and staffs but also by other staffs and even the officials.
My first memories of Girmindl came as a freshman in 2006, the men’s basketball team started the season 17-0, and I had been standing courtside in the student section for every home game. He often entered and exited through the tunnel, he would stop by and tell us to make sure to give the other team a hard time each game.
When I began to work in the Clemson SID office in 2008 my seat for basketball games was now right in front of Gary. I was able to interact with him, getting to know him better while also seeing him interact with players, coaches, officials, and other fans up close. He spoke to everyone, everyone knew him, and everyone loved him. The Tigers reached the Gator Bowl on the gridiron in 2008, and Gary was staying in a room right down the hall from me in the same hotel. We were able to eat breakfast together a couple of the mornings and talk all things Clemson, it was amazing to learn of how devoted a fan and follower of the Tigers he was.
Since returning from that trip in 2008, Girmindl spoke to me by name every time he saw me at any event. Whether it was walking into Littlejohn, and him convincing me to help roll t-shirts for the cheerleaders before starting my SID office duties, or him asking me what I thought of the opposing team before a game in Doug Kingsmore Stadium, he always spoke to me. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend many of great moments in Clemson sports history with Gary, including NCAA baseball and basketball tournaments, football bowl games, and even the 2010 College World Series. These are many memories I will never forget.
I was shocked to hear of his passing last Friday morning. I was out of town on vacation and heard from a mutual friend that he has passed away returning from the Virginia game. I was stunned and couldn’t believe it was true. I immediately began searching to see if it was true and when it was confirmed I was truly speechless.
It was just the week before, before the Tigers faced FSU on Monday night that I was sitting with Gary. We were discussing the season, the tournament, sports, and life in general. He greeted me with the normal, “what ya say, Heath.” I told him I was getting ready to travel with the Men’s golf team to Bowling Green, Kentucky. We talked about how much he loved the game of golf and how he was still able to hit his trusty driver 240 yards straight every time. He was proud of our team and how great of a job Coach Penley has done in his tenure at Clemson and wished them luck in the tournament.
As I passed by him late in the game, he uttered to me his famous phrase “we got them right where we want them” and I responded as I always did, “ I sure hope you are right”. I left telling him I would see him at the NCAA baseball tournament and to pull our Tigers through until then. I had no idea that would be the last conversation I would have with him. I truly do not think it has hit myself, or the Clemson family yet that he is gone.
As the Tiger Baseball team heads to Columbia this weekend for the NCAA tournament there is no doubt he will be watching and pulling for his Tigers to advance. While he may not be there in person, he will be in spirit, with the team, and with the fans he knew so well. I am not sure what it will be like walking into Littlejohn Coliseum or Doug Kingsmore Stadium and not seeing and speaking to Gary in the future. However, ne thing I do know, it will not be the same without him. Clemson not only lost a great fan, but also a great man, one I will truly miss seeing around.