Ah, the sweet clank of cowhide on aluminum! Yes, college baseball is back.
I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon over in Athens this past Saturday watching David Perno’s 2009 Diamond Dogs showing off their offense for a near-capacity crowd at Foley Field, scoring double digits in all three games of their opening home stand for the first time since 1980.
It was a better than expected turnout against an unranked opponent (Youngstown State), with only a handful of seats in the shady (and very chilly on this day) reserved seat section going unfilled. In fact, the team drew 8,868 over the three-game opening stand, breaking a record set against Oregon State in 2007. It was a nice mix of local oldsters who regularly turn out, sorority girls with their dads, and families with young kids. Plus some of the hardcore were out at the foot of Kudzu Hill. A lot of folks like me from metro Atlanta were there, too. (It’s not a bad drive; I was walking up to the ticket window less than 90 minutes after leaving home in Decatur.) Despite the cool weather, folks were tailgating in the Stegeman Coliseum parking lot before the game. Even Mike “Big Dawg” Woods (an Athens High classmate of mine) was on hand with his painted bald head.
Maybe the weekend’s strong attendance is a sign of optimism among Georgia’s baseball fans that the program will break out of the odd-numbered year jinx that has plagued it this decade, alternating bad seasons with trips to the NCAA tournament or College World Series in the even-numbered years. True, UGA did lose some high-profile talent from last year’s CWS runner-up, including SEC player of the year Gordon Beckham and SEC pitcher of the year Joshua Fields, but Perno managed to hang on to much of his pitching staff, most notably Trevor Holder, who turned down a chance to sign with the Marlins last summer, and he’s also got 18 lettermen returning.
Even more notable, perhaps, is the promising freshman class, which is so brimming with talent that five of the Dogs’ starters this weekend were frosh. And they produced, especially speedy lead-off man and base-stealer Johnathan Taylor from Acworth, who got on base 12 out of 14 times in the three-game series. It’s worth noting the team was picked from 4th to 14th in preseason polls, ranking Top 10 in most of them.
Whether the Dogs can make it two years in a row to the CWS or not, they usually play an entertaining brand of ball and you can’t beat the value, with reserved seats just $8 and general admission only $5 (UGA students get in free with their ID). You can buy tickets online at www.georgiadogs.com or by phone at 1-877-542-1231, and the ticket window at Foley Field opens two hours before the first pitch.
The Dogs play host to Presbyterian in a two-game series Tuesday at 5 p.m. and Wednesday at 4 p.m., and while they travel out to Arizona this coming weekend, they’ll be back at Foley Field the weekend after that.
It’s a great place to watch a ballgame. If you’ve never been to a baseball game at UGA, now’s the time to give it a try.