Tonight D. and I took the streetcar uptown to attend Tulane's first game at Turchin Stadium since 2005. And boy, what a view. I drafted some very stream-of-consciousness thoughts throughout the game, and here they are, be they jumbled or (hopefully) lucid.
•The game got off to a late start due to the celebration that included fireworks and Grammy winner Irma Thomas belting out the national anthem. The atmosphere at Turchin is nothing short of electric tonight. Once Shooter Hunt's first pitch crossed the mound, though, Tulane never looked back. Sure, fireworks are pretty, but so is a nasty curveball, right?
•Tulane looked a little jumpy early--but Shooter seemed to really get his bearing by the third inning.
•It's difficult to reconcile this Illinois-Chicago team with the team that upset Long Beach State in the 2007 Long Beach regional. To be fair, they have seven new position players and two new starting pitchers, but their veterans were even more concerning. Junior first baseman Brett Schaefer and junior catcher Kevin Coddington looked terrible for the first few innings. The fielding was horrendous for the Flames, and they had the errors to show it. It's only the first inning at this point, and Tulane is already out to a 4-0 lead. This is NOT the best start for UIC.
•Before I knew that Shooter Hunt's nickname comes from the eponymous "Hoosiers" character, I mused that either he was the most aptly named pitcher since FSU's Eddie Cannon...or his parents were really taken with "Happy Gilmore"'s Shooter McGavin. Fortunately, I was absolutely wrong on both counts.
•So, about the stadium...some might argue that the pretty chairbacks are the big draw. Others might argue that the fact that a seller walks around hawking beer is a sign of greatness. (I can't really argue that, as I'm still impressed that a college stadium sells beer.) Purists would no doubt point to the gorgeous turf or the crystal-clear, state-of-the-art scoreboard. Let's not take away from the nifty cupholders. As any Saints or Hornets fan will sagely note, it's unwise to take a quality cupholder at a sporting event for granted. I'm just sayin'.
•Seriously, though, the stadium is absolutely beautiful. Of course, it has the figurative "new car smell," but it's a wonderful addition to the Green Wave's baseball program. One thing of concern to me was that the grandstands only seemed about 85% full, while the bleachers were very full. To be honest, I expected a sellout. Here in the second inning, I'm wondering--are the amped-up ticket prices partially responsible? I hear that roughly 3,000 season tickets have sold, but as a NOLA.com commenter remarked earlier today, the single-game grandstand tickets are pricier than what you'll find at Zephyrs Field. Bearing that in mind, Tulane is dominating the error-prone Flames. While errors are common during the opening weekend every year--for every team--this just makes me wince.
•Hmmm...great musical choices so far. What's not to love about Guns n' Roses and the Rolling Stones? When I was in college, batters and pitchers had intro music. I guess I'm getting old, because that tradition seems to be nonexistent at Greer Field. Another curious thing: LSU put out a press release announcing their slate of 2008 bat girls. What's funny is that they apparently hold tryouts, and the competition seems almost Golden Girl tough. That's a decided contrast from Tulane's very laidback approach.
•Bonearama is playing at tomorrow's The Boys are Back in Town Block Party? If you're not a fan of funk and trombones, definitely plan on going to see former Tulane standout and American League president Dr. Bobby Brown throw out the first pitch at tomorrow's afternoon game.
•In the sixth inning, Tulane makes the very classy (and not at all unexpected) move of introducing and saluting their grounds crew. Very cool. And the crowd? Still loud and energized, despite no scoring since the bottom of the second.
•So it's the bottom of the sixth, and Flames pitcher Grant Kohlstaedt has...well...flamed out, leaving the bases loaded. There's a brief conference on the mound, set to The Chemical Brothers' "Galvanized." Ironic music choice, that, but a call to the bullpen is made, and in comes sophomore southpaw Don Phillis for UIC. Phillis made no appearances for the Flames in 2007, so it should be interesting to see what he does with ducks on a pond. Poor guy. I'm thinking he's a lamb to the slaughter. And down goes Seth Henry on strikes. While I'm rooting for Tulane, it's nice to see a kid get his first collegiate K. Prince singles and gets an RBI--man, Tulane already has TEN hits in this game! On Drew Allain's at-bat, UIC's Phillis gets nailed in the general vicinity of his intestines. Ouch. He recovers nicely to "Jesse's Girl" (I'm telling you, I'm loving the music choices), and is so apparently inspired by the immortal words of Rick Springsteen, he strikes Wave first baseman Sam Honeck out. Behold the power of the '80's, folks. But with two more earned runs on starting pitcher Kohlstaedt, his ERA is not off to a great start.
•The seventh inning strength. Egads. That was horrific.
•In the bottom of the seventh, the Flames make yet another pitching change. But Tulane is now up 6-0--they took control in the first inning, and never relinquished it.
•Illinois-Chicago's Steve McGuiggan fouls into the grandstand, and from my perch in the press box, I can hear the guys from AM 690 next to me chortling that the fan closest to the foul ball opted to save his peanuts instead of making a play for the foul ball. Heh.
•Wow--5,093 fans tonight! Great job, Wave fans. Keep it up--your energy is clearly motivating this team tonight.
•Here in the eighth, Turchin is more than half-empty.
•Jr. RHP Mason Griffin comes in for Tulane at the top of the ninth--he's TU's new closer, a transfer from Grayson Community College. Three outs later, I'm thinking UIC's got to be feeling hideous about getting shut out on opening night. Tulane should be feeling pretty great tonight--despite emotions running high, they settled down and got the job done in fantastic order, winning 6-0.
•So I hear more than 100 cars were parked on the Claiborne Ave. neutral ground tonight, and that virtually all of them were ticketed by the City at a cost of $75 per vehicle. Um, wow. I have things to say about that, but they're not very nice. Suffice it to say, I think it's unfair to Green Wave fans--it'll be a bit before the new parking lot is completed, and parking is already scarce. Ugh.
I'd say more, but I'm exhausted from my day sifting through the archives at the library and blogging college baseball. Tomorrow D. and I are going to sit through all five best picture nominees and try not to gorge on stale popcorn.
P.S. FSU's season opener against Duquesne was rained out tonight. Boooooo.