After 11 months of quiet on the diamonds, college baseball is back

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(Photo by Donny J Crowe)

It officially started a few weeks ago at Loyola. This weekend, however, it returns in full force.

“It” is college baseball, and man, have we missed you.

When COVID-19 first made impact in the United States 11 months ago, football lost spring drills and a couple of regular-season games in the fall. Basketball took a gut punch without March Madness, but only after the regular season had basically been completed.

Baseball lost not only its postseason, but about two-thirds of the regular season, including all of conference play.

The nasty spell of cold, snow and ice that has hit the Deep South this week has played havoc with some schedules, but there will be baseball.

Delgado got things started Thursday with a run-rule victory in its season opener over Bryant & Stratton College.

Tulane – which was off to its best start since its Omaha days when the pandemic brought 2020 to a halt – welcomes the Ragin’ Cajuns from Lafayette for a three-game series at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium beginning Friday afternoon.

Nicholls also gets underway Friday afternoon with a three-game series against Eastern Illinois in Thibodaux.

Because of travel, scheduling and even a touch of COVID-19 protocols, everyone else in our area will wait until Saturday for Opening Day – LSU against Air Force, the University of New Orleans against Southern, Southeastern Louisiana against Mississippi Valley State.

But after 11 months of quiet on the diamonds, what’s another day, right?

Now because of those still-in-place protocols, it won’t be what it was in terms of fan support … for now. A nice weather weekend with two area teams would have figured to put big crowds Uptown, and you know LSU’s opener, even a day late, would fill Alex Box to the brim. But there will be no more than 25 percent capacity at first for any of the area teams – some with less than that.

Technology will help solve some of that problem, with games being regularly live-streamed by just about everyone these days.

It’s a far cry from when I first became hooked on college baseball. I was near graduation from high school in the spring of 1982 and was asked to assist in game operations for Tulane home games.

Tulane’s home field back then was located just south of where it is now, with wooden bleachers and a makeshift press box at the top of the home-plate stands. It was known as the “duck blind” … well, because that’s really what it looked like.

Now, in my 40th year following the sport as a game worker, publicist, broadcaster, production assistant and even just a fan, things are different, and just about all of it is good. Teams play in stadiums with millions of dollars in enhancements and give you multiple ways to keep up with the action.

At least for one day, though, one thing will be the same as it was in 1982, thanks to the weather forecast – midweek afternoon baseball at Tulane. I wonder if the umpires will ask not to be listed on the boxscore, so as not to let their bosses know they played hooky from work that afternoon.

Speaking of umpires, at dozens of stadiums across America on Friday, and a few more on Saturday, we’ll hear the first cry of the season to “play ball.”

Though things aren’t yet back to where we left off last March, that sound will be a nice step in the right direction.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

Sales/Content/Production

Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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