EVERETT - The man was dressed completely in green, and Bob Bavasi thought he had met a leprechaun.
But Bavasi soon discovered that Jim Averill could help him and his wife, Margaret, find a pot of gold when they located their Northwest League baseball franchise in Everett in 1984.
Averill could organize like Aunt Bea, memorize facts like a computer, entertain like Liberace and talk baseball history like Vin Scully. Averill became the Bavasis' first employee, passing out Everett Giants pocket schedules and drumming up interest.
Averill died Wednesday night of complications after a second stroke in three years. He was 45. The public is invited to attend a memorial service at 2 p.m. Sunday at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Now Bavasi knows Averill can leave a void as big as the one he filled.
Each evening, Averill, best known as "The Walker," dressed outrageously in screaming-print shorts, suspenders, goggles and a bowler. He raced a fan around the bases by speedwalking, while the fan ran, and seldom lost.
The promotion, easily the most popular in franchise history, carved Averill's place in local baseball lore.
He grew up in Snohomish, grandson of Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill, nephew of former major-leaguer Earl Averill Jr. and across-the-back-alley neighbor of former major-leaguer Earl Torgeson. He loved to chat about "the three Earls of Snohomish," but he was a small-town duke of baseball in his own right.
Still, he remained awed by his grandfather. In that first meeting, Bavasi recalled, Averill carried "stationery that listed him as Founder and Curator of the Howard Earl Averill Hall of Fame and Memorial Picture Gallery. I asked him where this gallery is located and he said, `In my closet.' "
Averill's drollness made him lovable in a Yogi Berra kind of way. Once, when Bavasi ordered a tree chopped down outside the office, Averill looked at it and said, "You know, that tree was a lot taller before you cut it down."
Averill recovered well enough from his first stroke to work at an Everett fast-food restaurant and at the newly renovated ballpark on game nights, walk three miles a day and declare he would return in 1999 as The Walker.
He loved the ballpark setting so.
But gone were the days when he literally camped out in the press box during the season as a security guard.
No TV. Locked inside a chain-link fence at Everett Memorial Stadium. No one to talk to except Ballpark, a stray cat he found lingering near the beer booth and adopted. Sleeping with a few scattered utility poles for night lights. He loved every second.
"Sometimes I like to sit out on the landing, drink a pop, read the newspaper. The only book I read is The Bible," he said.
He had plenty to do.
"I found a secluded spot out back by a couple of dumpsters where I liked to sit and look at the stars," he said. "This time of year the Big Dipper is prevailing in the west. I think about who created everything. It makes you feel kind of small."
Averill left as many happy memories as the stars he counted. And that is no small accomplishment.