'The guy on the board' pitches in around Buffalo
As previously seen in Artvoice and the former Sports & Leisure Magazine in 2015.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (June 2015) — Alan Barraclaugh is pocket-poor but rich by way of heart. At least that’s the impression he made on a certain photographer in Buffalo, N.Y.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, the almost-summer sun was beating down on the crest of Barraclaugh’s bald head — sweat beading and dripping into the salty colored, horseshoe pattern of hair that stretched backward from one ear to the other.
He was outfitted in older tennis sneakers, shorts, a light jacket and a V-neck T-shirt that exposed a bit of white chest hair and a hemp necklace with a crucifix. A backpack was draped over his left shoulder — overflowing with what appeared to be a survival kit of sorts, including a heavier coat and a bottle of water.
As Barraclaugh walked along Pearl Street in downtown Buffalo, he mumbled quietly to himself — seemingly a bit agitated. It was approaching noon, and he’d yet to secure enough money for lunch, he said later.
But then he was reminded of a person he met recently: a tall, muscular, bearded photographer who was out cruising around on an oversized skateboard.
“The guy on the board,” Barraclaugh recalled, flashing a bright smile from behind his weathered grey beard. “What a great guy.”
The guy on the board is the top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system — Daniel Norris, a 22-year-old pitcher, who is currently playing for the Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons. The guy on the board is also the same guy who made national news earlier this spring for his choice to live off $800 per month while living in a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia microbus, which he dubbed “Shaggy,” during Major League Baseball’s Spring Training.
Norris, who at one point collected a $2 million signing bonus, is known just as well for his action on the field — where he hurls the baseball at speeds close to 95 miles per hour — as he is off the field. Whether it’s surfing along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean during the offseason or skateboarding around Buffalo, Norris is on the go when he’s not steady on the pitcher’s mound.
One of those off-the-field passions — photography — brought him to his encounter with Barraclaugh.
“It was one of the days where there was a lot of fog around here,” Norris said of the Buffalo streets. “So, I got on my skateboard and started running around, taking some photos.
“But then it was pretty cool. I rode past this guy right over here by the stadium and he kind of just caught my eye. He said, ‘Cool board, dude,’ so I stopped and started talking to him a bit and asked if I could take his photo. And he said: ‘Sure. No problem.’”
From there, Norris’ curiosity turned to generosity.
“He was just so nice and such a gentleman, and I wanted to help him out a bit. But I was in workout stuff and didn’t have anything on me except my camera,” Norris said. “So, I asked him if he’d stay there for a minute, and I went back to the clubhouse [at then Coca-Cola Field] to grab some money and Peter Pan Peanut Butter crackers for him. He was just really happy.”
Norris took an image that will likely live forever on the internet — it’s posted on his Instagram account — while the image of the “guy on the board” is one that Barraclaugh has stored in the internal hard drive within his mind.
“He was on his skateboard and he saw my sign — and he obviously wasn’t from around here,” Barraclaugh recalled with a
smile. “The sign just says: ‘Broke. Please help.’ And then he helped me out, and I was just so thankful. He was a pretty cool guy, and he made me laugh.”
The two had a conversation about life, and while each is in an entirely different phase — Barraclaugh, living meal-by-meal and likely in his 60s — there was a deep-rooted level of respect established that day.
Norris, who lives by sayings such as “just keep livin’,” said he was moved by Barraclaugh’s positive attitude, despite his less-than-desirable position.
That curiosity about the world and the way people live is expressed through his photography, a decent amount of which he shares on social media — including photos of the homeless and panhandlers in other cities.
“A lot of times [while I’m on a road trip], you’ll be out to breakfast or something — and I like to people watch — and you’ll see people and wonder what they’re doing in life,” Norris said. “And, you know, we’re pretty blessed to be doing this, so it kind of keeps things in perspective. And even though I got sent down [from major-league Toronto to Buffalo], we’re still very blessed to be here.”
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