All it took to make the most iconic Auburn baseball fan was an Auburn helmet from a Subway giveaway, a couple of chants and a lot of love for Auburn baseball.
You probably know him as "Helmet Guy," and he’s one of the main components of Plainsman Park year by year. Many Auburn fans are familiar with his passionate chants and participate in them unquestionably.
Mike Cooper, better known as Helmet Guy, is a 1974 Auburn graduate in industrial design. When he was invited to his first Auburn baseball game by Ron Anders Jr. while working at Anders Bookstore during his time at Auburn, he was “hooked” on Auburn baseball.
Ever since then, he and his wife have had season tickets, as also he does for football, basketball and softball.
Cooper is no ordinary season ticket holder, though. Traveling from Clanton, Alabama for each set of weekend games, he brings his voice with him and leads the crowds in chants at each home game.
It started in 2001, Cooper recalls, when he remembers a silent crowd at an Auburn baseball game. He realized something had to be done about the unenthused crowd, so he began leading a series of chants.
“I just hate it for the fans to sit there,” Cooper said. “I just wanted the guys to get pumped up for the game.”
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As for the helmet, Cooper says he got it from a giveaway Subway was doing, and he never put it away.
“It was for kids, really, but it would fit an adult head,” Cooper said. “When I got out and started cheering, it just kind of stuck. I guess I was recognized by that and that’s where the names ‘the helmet guy' or ‘helmet Mike’ came about.”
Cooper has been cheering on the Tigers ever since, but as Auburn got to know him and his impact in livening crowds, former Auburn softball coach Corey Myers invited Cooper to start cheering for softball games as well, and he has been doing that ever since.
While Cooper enjoys all Auburn sports, he hopes to help the environments of baseball and softball match those of the historical Auburn football program and the atmosphere head coach Bruce Pearl has built for basketball at Auburn.
“Everybody loves football. They say it’s always hard to come play at Auburn because of the crowd noise,” Cooper said. “Then, coach Pearl comes along and gets our program going in basketball… I want that to happen with our baseball, but you have to win, and we’re winning now.”
With the baseball team hosting a Regional, winning it, and going on to play in the World Series in Omaha this coming weekend, Cooper hopes this is the kind of year that gets fans excited about baseball like at other schools.
“I like what’s going on over at schools like Texas A&M, Mississippi and Mississippi State,” Cooper said. “Those crowds are really into it. It just makes things fun.”
For Cooper, his motives are to show people the pleasures of baseball and being in a ballpark. He hopes some of his enthusiasm can rub off on others and be contagious.
“(Auburn) is a real nice atmosphere to come out and watch a ball game,” Cooper said. “I just hope it sticks with them: the enjoyment of being in a baseball park and bringing your kids out and stuff like that. Aubie is always out there getting pictures and autographs, so that’s another good drawing card for all the kids.”
Cooper has seen a big jump in the team chemistry from last year, when the Tigers went 15-14 at home, to this season when they went 25-9 at Plainsman Park. He describes the team as well-balanced. They have clicked as an offensive unit as well as in pitching and defense, whereas the offense showed some promise last year, but they struggled to put things together on both sides of the ball.
He says where things seem to have changed the most to him, however, is that the players seem to have each other’s backs and those leaders have stepped up and held each other accountable.
“I just think there’s a lot of chemistry, and it might not have been there last year as much, but this year it’s there,” Cooper said. “You always say, ‘I’ve got your back.’ Well, these kids are like, ‘If you don’t get a base hit, I’m going to. I’m coming for you.’ Or if the pitcher’s up there having some problems, then they say, ‘Just let them hit the ball, we’re going to get it.'”
As for Cooper’s predictions for the Tigers in Omaha, he believes this team is more than capable of getting to the final, and he wants it for this team in particular.
“You could see the smiles on their faces as they got on the bus yesterday like ‘We’re going to take care of business,’” Cooper said. “Well, if that’s the case, we’ll see them in the finals.”
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