Butterflies abound as college baseball season begins
NEW ORLEANS – In the world of college baseball, this isn’t just any Friday.
It’s Opening Day, with a capital “O” and a capital “D.”
All of the area Division I teams begin their seasons at home Friday night – LSU against Notre Dame, Tulane against Wright State, the University of New Orleans against Illinois-Chicago in the Andre Dawson Classic, Nicholls against Stony Brook and Southeastern Louisiana against SIU-Edwardsville.
The common thread among coaches as the start of another season begins: The proverbial butterflies and management of those nerves.
“Get your butterflies in a row,” Tulane coach Travis Jewett said Thursday. “We’ve been talking to the (players) about not counting down the days, but make the days count.
“There’s no more looking at it any differently now. It’s here. You can kind of feel the energy and excitement.”
Jewett’s roster has more newcomers (18) than returnees (16), though six of the 18 new faces have Division I experience, including opening-night starting pitcher Kaleb Roper, whose path has gone from Archbishop Rummel to the University of Arizona to San Jacinto College to Uptown.
There isn’t much that LSU’s Paul Mainieri hasn’t experienced in his coaching career, but he too gets the butterflies. However, he’s gone out of his way to try to help his players not get too anxious Friday night – rehearsing everything the players will experience, from wearing game uniforms to player introductions to even their walk-up music.
“There is going to be enough anxiety on opening night,” Mainieri told The Advocate. “Everybody is going to have it, and anybody that says they don’t have it is lying. I want to take as many of the unknowns as possible away.”
Mainieri also has 18 newcomers, including a pair with local connections who figure to be in the starting lineup – former John Curtis two-way player Daniel Cabrera, who will start in left field, and former Delgado infielder Brandt Broussard, who is expected to get the nod at second base on Friday.
UNO coach Blake Dean also has more newcomers than returnees, but the Privateers went more of the transfer route to restock the roster. Dean has only five freshmen on his roster.
The Privateers get some early broadcast exposure with the Andre Dawson Classic – their Saturday night game against Alabama State will be televised nationally by MLB Network. So too does Nicholls – the Colonels’ opener Friday night airs on CST.
Southeastern gets a nine-game home stand to begin the season, including a Feb. 28 visit from LSU and a strong test next weekend against UConn.
Meanwhile, Delgado got a 24-hour jump on the Division I schools, opening their “Rags” Scheuermann Memorial Tournament Thursday night against the College of St. Joseph.
“It’s the non-playing stuff I worry about more than anything,” said Delgado coach Joe Scheuermann, who opens his 28th season at the helm of the Dolphins. “Things that I can’t control, I worry about more. Are the umpires scheduled? Is the other team in town?”
The one advantage JUCO programs have over Division I schools is an extensive fall schedule against outside competition. Division I schools can play fall games, but they count against the NCAA’s 56-game limit.
Still, he said, “It’s Opening Day to me too. It’s a new team, different kids.
“I still get the butterflies. When I stop getting butterflies, I’m going to get out of coaching. When I don’t get nervous and uptight, that means it doesn’t mean much. I still enjoy the fact that I am nervous, to be quite honest.”
It means a lot to the coaches, the players and even the fans. Opening Day brings promise – of the hope of a great season to come, even to the spring and summer that has yet to arrive, though the temperatures Wednesday and Thursday might suggest otherwise.
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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;…