Tweet 'em and meet 'em: Axford surprises fan

Tweet 'em and meet 'em: Axford surprises fan

Published Jun. 9, 2012 8:24 p.m. ET

MILWAUKEE — John Axford wanted to create a unique memory for a fan of his who was wearing the closer's jersey at a Wisconsin mall earlier this week.

Though it didn't work out the way Axford hoped, he did snap a picture to capture the moment (above) and posted it to his Twitter account for 50,000-plus followers to see, with this message:

"Is it weird that I'm walking behind this guy at the mall right now?"

Axford explained the tweet to after Saturday's game.

"I just arrived at the mall and he happened to be right there, so I followed him for a little bit, which seems kind of creepy, but I thought it'd be funny if he turned around and I would give him a wave or something and see if he recognized me," he said. "But he didn't turn around. He just went down the escalator.

"I blame it on the fact that he was walking with a girl. His attention was there instead, I'm sure."

When that photo started becoming a hit across the country on social media, the fan eventually realized it was him in the picture and contacted Axford on Twitter.

That fan is 17-year-old Collin George, who just graduated from Greendale High School in Wisconsin.

"We went to my friend's house, we were at her pool, and her friend's dad asked if I had an Axford jersey on," George explained by phone on Monday. "He got his phone because his buddy had sent him a picture of Axford's Facebook wall and then asked me if I was at the mall.

"I said, 'Wait, that was me!' He showed me the picture. I was like, 'Are you serious?!' "

Giving Axford a heads-up that he'd be at Saturday's game against the Padres, George mentioned his exact seat location in hopes of making up for the moment he missed out on at the mall.

"I saw him up in the stands, realized it was him, and he just turned around and pointed that he was wearing his Axford jersey again, so I threw him a ball," Axford said.

Even though Axford never got a clear look at the fan's face at the mall, he still recognized him at the game.

"I think just the way he kind of yelled at me," Axford said. "I could just kind of tell. I just knew it was him. I just said, 'Eat a bunch of brats for me,' and that was it."

The fan waited in Axford's autograph line — an interactive tradition with players and fans at Brewers Saturday home games — but was then told it was only for kids 14 years old and younger.

"We were in his line for 30 minutes and I was next in line, and then the security guard said 'You’re not 14,' " George said. "I was like, 'Uh, OK.' So I waved to him and waited until after he was done with autographs, but then he ran back to the dugout. It was hot out."

Axford recalled the situation.

"They didn't let him get any autographs or anything like that," Axford said. "I didn't get to sign anything for him, but at least I got to throw him a baseball."

Axford also tossed the fan a message on Twitter.

"I'm just glad you got a ball after I stalked you in the mall and you didn't know!" Axford tweeted to the fan.

While Axford added that he might eventually meet the fan "if (George) happens to be around or whatever," he does have some reservations about what doing that could turn into.

"I don't want to try to single out too many people, otherwise maybe next time I go to a mall, everyone is going to try to hound me for something," Axford said with a laugh. "But we'll see."

If Axford does meet his jersey-bearing fan, George is just hoping for one thing.

"Getting a signature on that jersey, I would retire that jersey if he signed it," George said. "I'd hang it up on the wall. That'd be cool."

So, sports fans, the next time you wear a player's jersey out in public, make sure to use your peripheral vision because you never know when that player might be right behind you.