LSU BASEBALL EXPERIENCES TD AMERITRADE PARK FOR THE FIRST TIME
OMAHA, Neb. – National
Freshman of the Year Alex Bregman stepped onto the field at TD
Ameritrade Park on Friday and had one word to best sum up his
experience -- “awesome.”
He and the rest of the Tigers got their
first look at the three-year-old $128 million exclusive home of the
NCAA Men’s College World Series with a practice day, autograph session
and opening ceremonies to officially kickoff the 67th year of college
baseball’s main event.
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri participated
in a press conference earlier in the day with the three other coaches
who will play on Sunday. Three seasons removed from a 2009 national
championship in historic Rosenblatt Stadium, Mainieri soaked in the
sights of the new ballpark, walked through the concourse and greeted
the hundreds of LSU fans seeking autographs.
“This is the
mecca,” he said. “This is the pinnacle of college baseball to be in
Omaha now and to be in this beautiful new ballpark.”
national seed LSU (57-9) plays its first ever game in TD Ameritrade
Park at 7 p.m. CT Sunday against UCLA (44-17) in a nationally televised
game on ESPN2. The Bruins are the only team in the field who
experienced the ballpark last season.
Upon arrival on Friday,
the Tigers drew a crowd to take a team portrait and individual photos
in front of the famed “Road to Omaha” statue. What once was a monument
for fans at old Rosenblatt Stadium now stands proudly at the corner of
Cuming and North 13th Streets. The statue made its move to the new park
in April 2011.
LSU then made its way through the bowels of the
stadium, touring the new locker room before meeting with ESPN and
NCAA.com reporters at the expansive club level, which features a
pavilion with a panoramic view of the stadium.
The ballpark has
a Major League like feel to it. Batting cages are just steps away from
each dugout, enabling teams to hit in inclement conditions or allowing
a pinch hitter to get ready with some swings before he is called upon.
The old organ, playing the notes of Lambert Bartak at Rosenblatt, even
made its way over to the new venue.
Of the 24,000 seats, none
of them feature a bad view. The concourse is twice the size of the old
Rosenblatt concourse, and best of all it allows fans a view of the
field even when in line for refreshments. Much of the concourse is
decorated with classic CWS memorabilia and displays, including one of
legendary former LSU coach Skip Bertman.
The Tigers took batting
practice for an hour to get a feel for the field’s conditions. It plays
similar to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, though is five feet shorter
down the lines at 335 feet. The turf is thick and made of Kentucky Blue
“This is where you need to be,” said Bregman. “The
playing surface is beautiful and it was great to see a lot of LSU fans
here. It does play like Hoover – it’s big. This is the kind of grass I
play on back home, a little slower, so I have to come get the ball at
LSU drew the most media coverage and autograph
seekers of the eight teams on Friday as Omaha’s fan favorite makes a
return for the first time in three seasons. Mainieri told reporters he
was relieved that this team could experience this event following an
unprecedented regular season in the program’s history.
great thing about our team this year is it’s just one of those teams
that the chemistry is so outstanding,” he said. “It’s been a great
group of kids to work with. I’m so thrilled for our seniors that they
had the opportunity to get here before their careers ended.”
head coach John Savage, a former Southern Cal assistant who coached
against the Tigers in the 1998 and 2000 College World Series, praised
LSU fans for their support in helping grow the game of baseball.
have got the best fans in college baseball,” said Savage. “They’ve got
the biggest support and one of the most beautiful stadiums in the
country. There are no other fans like LSU fans. I’ve been on the other
side when Brad Hawpe hit the home run against Mark Prior in Rosenblatt.
They (fans) travel anywhere, anytime. It’s a privilege to play against
them. It’s great for college baseball that they support their program
as well as they do.”