“Life is better when the Padres win.”
Nobody embodies that sentiment quite like Ryan Cohen, a Padres superfan and Jumbotron regular. In case his stellar dance moves haven’t caught your attention, his love for the Friars is something that’s pretty difficult to miss.
Cohen, a San Diego native, has followed the team since he was around six years old.
“I don’t have a specific moment where it hit me that I was a baseball fan,” Cohen said. “I really loved it at a young age.”
“It’s become my biggest passion in the whole world,” he added in regard to his love for the game.
Baseball has been a part of Cohen’s life since he was small. Growing up, Cohen played little league ball, and oftentimes found himself and his teammates up on the big screen at Petco Park when they’d go to games together.
His early days on the Jumbotron foreshadowed something much bigger. Now, as a rising junior at UC Davis, Cohen is still going to games and still making frequent appearances on the big screen.
“I get up on that Jumbotron quite a bit, and it’s not like I’m trying to,” Cohen said. “It’s more like I’m dancing and having fun, and the camera sees it and I get up there. I’m always dancing and having a good time with my buddies.”
His dance moves haven’t just caught the attention of Petco Park’s cameramen; the players have also taken notice, most notably former Padres outfielder Franmil Reyes.
“He was awesome,” Cohen said. “In right field, he would always point at me and start dancing.”
One game in particular comes to mind for Cohen when talking about his bond with Reyes.
“I was up in San Francisco at a Giants game and I had really good tickets, and he hit a big pinch hit home run to take the lead,” Cohen said. “He gets to the end of the dugout and he was going nuts, and he pointed at me, and started dancing.”
Aside from the excitement of being a fan, Cohen can appreciate the interplay between sports and genuine human connection.
“Any time you can have something beyond the game in the ballpark, where you’re actually interacting, kind of breaking that fourth wall, I love that stuff,” he said. “That’s really cool.”
Aside from his relationship with the players, Cohen has also been able to build special relationships with friends through the Padres.
“There’s a certain bond where you’re at a game, and (my friends) see me at my rawest form, when I’m going nuts,” Cohen said.
“I’ve been really lucky with great friends who’ve supported the Padres,” he added.
The ability to go to games has been put on hold this season with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. However, this has not deterred Cohen.
Although he can’t physically be at Petco Park, Cohen continues to watch each game at home, socially distanced but still very much involved.
“I take these games to heart,” Cohen said. “When Manny or Fernando or anybody else hits a big home run, or Lamet’s throwing a no hitter I’m sweating and dancing around.
“I’m still having fun just by myself, or with my friends or with my family. I’m just not with 40,000 people like I’d rather be.”
There’s no doubt that Cohen loves his Padres. However, there’s something else that Cohen is equally as passionate about: Camp Kesem.
Kesem is an organization dedicated to building a community for children whose parents have been impacted by cancer. Kesem’s summer program is led by college student volunteers who dedicate themselves to creating a second family for these incredible kids.
“Camp Kesem is the most special thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Cohen said. “There’s no parallel.”
Cohen’s involvement in Kesem hits close to home.
“I got into it because one of my best friends growing up lost his dad at a young age, and he was involved with it so I got into it up at Davis,” he said.
Cohen’s freshman year of college started off rough, with Cohen missing his friends, his family and his home. However, he soon discovered Kesem, and suddenly found a home within the organization.
“Kesem in Hebrew means ‘magic,’ and I just don’t have a better word for that experience,” he said.
“It is hands-down the best decision of my life, and I am so forever grateful and humbled to be a tiny part of that,” Cohen added.
Cohen’s time with the organization has yielded some of the best memories and friendships of his life.
“Some of my best friends in the world are in that organization,” he said. “I got to be myself again because I had that confidence from a good group of friends.
“I really attribute all of my happiness up at school 100% to Camp Kesem. I think it’s the best thing that could have possibly happened, so I’m very, very grateful for that.”
All photos courtesy of Ryan Cohen
I am a senior at San Diego State University majoring in journalism with an emphasis in media studies. I was born and raised in San Diego, California and have a deep love for iced coffee, the beach and Taco Stand. I work for both the marketing and writing departments of The Bullpen, an up-and-coming baseball blog. Additionally, I am a staff writer and reporter for the sports section of The Daily Aztec, SDSU's student newspaper. I have a passion for sports and storytelling, and aspire to be a sidelines reporter for the MLB or a courtside reporter for the NBA.