Friday, July 25, 2008

Is This Heaven? Southwest/Mid South

RT Staff Note: We continue our Baseball Heaven series with the Mid South/Southwest. Baseball in this part of the country is huge, well attended and doesn't quite have the distractions, competition for events and activities that some California schools have. The stadiums are incredible and the fan base, the best in the college ranks. Enjoy the Mid South/Southwest's version of Baseball Heaven.
RT Staff

1. University of Texas

The University of Texas averages 5,492 fans a game. Until the Tampa Bay Rays started winning, the Longhorns were almost matching them in attendance. But we digress. UT has one of the more storied programs in the country and although UFCU Disch-Falk Field is under renovation, it still is one of the great places to play ball.

Like our California counterparts, the weather is conducive to play ball in late February and that’s important information to know if you are going to commit to three or four years of college baseball.

Disch-Falk Field opened in 1975 and the Longhorns, with the aid of All-American campaigns from Keith Moreland and Jim Gideon capture the program's third National Championship behind a 56-6 overall record. Notably, the national title was the first for UT in 25 years. Some other notable moments in UT baseball history was Junior right-hander Eric Stone becomes only the second pitcher in Texas history to strike out 19 opposing batters in one game when he fans 19 Ragin' Cajuns on March 18, 1998, to help UT claim a 2-0 victory over Southwestern Louisiana. Notably, the other pitcher to strike out 19 batters was Burt Hooton, who turned the trick against Texas Tech during a 1-0 victory in 13 innings on March 19, 1971.

The UT campus, like the state is huge, but very aesthetically pleasing campus and is everything a student athlete would want in a university. Outside of the west coast, you can’t go wrong with the Texas version of baseball heaven. Yep, everything is big in Texas (see the clock tower to the right) and the Longhorns score big on our top places to play ball in this part of the country. Yeehaw!

2. Oklahoma State

In 1981, the start of a new chapter in Oklahoma State baseball history was written. The Cowboys began play in one of the nation's finest facilities and returned to national prominence. Allie P. Reynolds Stadium has now been home to Cowboy baseball for over 20 years. Located on the northeast side of campus, Reynolds Stadium is located on the same site as the old baseball facility, University Park, and is named in honor of former OSU and major league pitching great Allie P. Reynolds.

The $2.2 million structure, with approximately 1,000 chairback seats, 2,000 bleacher seats in the main grandstand and 1,000 bleacher seats down the left-field foul line, Reynolds Stadium has a capacity near 4,000.

The Cowboys have added 693 games in the win column against only 144 losses for an impressive winning percentage of .828 in their home stadium. During the 1986 and '87 seasons, the Cowboys amassed a 54-game winning streak at home.

In addition to nine NCAA Regionals, Reynolds Stadium has played host to several of the nation's elite teams including: Arizona, Auburn, Cal State-Fullerton, Stanford, Texas, UCLA and Wichita State.
Allie P. Reynolds also has one of the nation's finest press boxes, featuring three radio booths and seating for 25 members of the media. In June 2005, the Cowboys moved into a new clubhouse along the third base dugout. The 6,200-square foot facility was built at an approximate cost of $700,000 and includes spacious wooden lockers for each player and a lounge area with leather couches, a big screen television and top of the line audio equipment. There is also a new locker room for the OSU coaches, a locker room for umpires, showers, an equipment room, a training room and a kitchen area for pre-game meals.

3. LSU

Alex Box Stadium, the home of the LSU Fighting Tigers, has a storied history which spans several decades. Always known as an excellent facility, recent efforts to upgrade the stadium have made it comparable to that of many professional minor-league clubs.In 2007 , the Tigers drew 256,537 fans to Alex Box Stadium as LSU finished first in the nation in total attendance for the 12th straight year. The Tigers set an NCAA record in 2004 for average attendance with 7,898 per contest. LSU established an NCAA total attendance mark in 2003 as 291,676 fans purchased tickets for “Baseball at the Box.”

LSU has been among the nation's attendance leaders for the past 17 seasons, finishing No. 5 in 1991, No. 6 in 1992, No. 4 in 1993, No. 3 in 1994 and 1995, and No. 1 from 1996-2007.

Over the past 24 seasons, the Tigers have attracted over four million fans to Alex Box Stadium. A total of 4,231,830 patrons have watched the Tigers play at "The Box" since 1984.

The stadium is recognized both for its oldfashioned charm and for its modern renovations. Since 1985, it has been the site of four SEC tournaments, 17 NCAA regional tournaments, three NCAA super regional series and one ABCA Hall of Fame tournament. “The Box” has undergone several facility-improvement projects designed to enhance the comfort and enjoyment of LSU baseball fans.
Prior to the 1999 season, the stadium scoreboard was moved from leftcenter field to right-center field. Bleachers were then installed in left-center field, increasing seating capacity to 7,760.

Visitors to Alex Box Stadium in 1998 had for the first time the opportunity to enjoy a concessions/picnic area behind the rightfield bleachers, complementing a similar facility behind the left-field bleachers.

4. Rice
Entering its ninth season in 2008, Reckling Park underwent extensive renovations in the summer of 2007 and is now even better than ever before. The recent renovations include a brand new playing surface and state-of-the-art drainage system.

A padded outfield wall and warning track that surrounds the entire field was added to improve player-safety. For the fans, a new grass berm and bleachers beyond the left field wall, a new hospitality plaza on the third-base side were all added and a new scoreboard and video display center are to be added in-season.

Reckling Park was always one of the best places in the country to watch the college game. The changes now make among the very best places in the country to watch and play the college game. These improvements give Rice student-athletes a venue befitting its status as one of the top programs in the nation.

From its picturesque setting on the Rice campus facing the Texas Medical Center, to the comfort of the more than 3,700 chairback seats (most with cupholders), to the nine private suites, to the spacious locker rooms for both teams and umpires, to the best press box in college baseball, every visitor has raved about Reckling Park.

Rice baseball is completely housed in the facility. Head coach Wayne Graham and his assistants work in a spacious office suite which includes their private locker room, equipment storage areas and clerical areas.

For the players, the Rice clubhouse is one of the best anywhere, adjacent to the weight and aerobic workout areas and athletic training room. In 2004, a brand new climate-controlled, indoor hitting and pitching practice facility was constructed under the third base stands.
On game day, the Owls and their guests use some of the largest dugouts in the country. Visiting teams and umpires also have use of large, functional locker room areas.

Fans continue to flock to the stadium. Rice has averaged more than 3,100 fans per game the last four seasons, ranking among the top draws in the nation. Those fans have access to three large concession areas, a large novelty shop and comfortable rest rooms.

5. Ole Miss
The stadium’s first action saw the Rebels sweep a doubleheader from Cumberland University on a bitter cold day, February 19, 1989. Still, a crowd of 1,016 braved the elements to be a part of that historic day in the school’s baseball history.

Ole Miss officially dedicated its new home on April 22, 1989, with a ceremony attended by many dignitaries, including Hall of Famer Whitey Ford and Ole Miss great Archie Manning. A sellout crowd of 2,967 attended and watched the Rebels down Kentucky, 4-3.

of a roof. A seating area was added beyond the right field fence in 1993, where hundreds of Ole Miss students have become accustomed to spending their sunny spring afternoons at the ball park.

The right field area has since undergone another transformation as a left field and right field lounge area was constructed during the 2000 season. The area is complete with picnic tables and barbeque stands to make this unique vantage point even more enjoyable.

Oxford-University Stadium’s features also include ample parking, concession stands, restrooms, an electronic scoreboard equipped with a full-size message board and television production facilities. The stadium is also equipped with AAA lighting that surpasses virtually every minor league ballpark in terms of quality.

Underneath the stadium, the Ole Miss players have a spacious locker room. Head coach Mike Bianco and his staff also have a separate office underneath the stands that is located adjacent to an all-purpose room, which serves as a player lounge and press interview area.

In the fall of 2003, a new 6,800-square-foot indoor batting facility was built down the first base line. With the new addition, the Rebels have been able to turn the indoor batting tunnel that is located underneath the first base stands, into a workout area for the pitchers.

"Is this heaven?"
"It's collegiate baseball."
"Collegiate baseball? I could have sworn this was heaven.."

"Is there a heaven?"
"Oh yeah. It's the place where dreams come true."
"Maybe this IS heaven."

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