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Welcome Back to Baseball

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By Tate Hawkins, Student Assistant, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to one of the best times of the year. After a wonderful fall for Ole Miss sports it's time to grab your gloves, caps, and your lawn chairs (if you're heading to the outfield). The grass has been cut, and the dirt has been dragged, oh and 10,000 of your closest friends are going to be with you: it's baseball season in Oxford!

Baseball can only begin with one of the most memorable days of the season, Opening Day. The gates of Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field opened for it's 28th Opening Day and saw its beloved Rebels get a 9-2 win over the Florida International University Panthers. Besides the play on the field, Opening Day comes with its own special set of emotions and events. This year, Opening Day fell on February 19, marking exactly 28 years to the day that the first baseball game was played at O-U Stadium. 

Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field became the host of Ole Miss Baseball February 19 1989 when the Rebels swept a doubleheader against Cumberland University in front of a crowd of 1,016 fans who braved the bitter cold weather conditions. On that day, George H.W. Bush was President, a gallon of gas cost $1.12, Darrell Waltrip won his only Daytona 500 while racing on gas fumes, and you could get a hot dog at the ballpark for under a dollar (don't forget $1 hot dog nights during midweek games this season). For this year's opener, scenarios were a little different. The first pitch of the season was thrown on a sunny 70-degree day, and there were 3,000 students in right field to accompany the total attendance of 10,129, the largest Opening Day crowd in school history. Donald Trump's running for President, we race solo cups in the fourth inning, a gallon of gas will cost you $1.53, and a hot dog will cost you $5 (excluding Dollar Dog nights of course). Buy hey, it's still Opening Day.

However, some things are better left unchanged. David Kellum is still the voice of Ole Miss Baseball on the radio after 37 seasons and describes the event as "one of the best days of the year." He and his wife Mary spend their weekends in the ballpark broadcast booth together and "love it." The Kellums love Opening Day because it's the chance to "get back in the saddle" after a long offseason.

Junior Brady Bramlett described being the Opening Day starter as "an awesome experience, especially with the crowd today - you felt the energy as soon as you stepped on the field." Head coach Mike Bianco said he was "proud and excited" of the team's play on Opening Day due to the "heightened excitement" behind the day. That excitement can be accredited to the chance to see new talent, see the veterans show their experience, have the for Rebel greats return, and even possibly the fact that 10,000 people were in attendance. "That number's crazy," said Bianco regarding the attendance. 

Aside from all the excitement, we can be hopeful from last year. The Rebels finished last season after being eliminated from postseason play in the Regional round and hope to return to Omaha and College World Series glory just like they did in 2014. With a lot of those team members being in the junior/senior years of eligibility, and a 3-game sweep over FIU on opening weekend, the season looks bright. So clear your schedules, rally the family, order your tickets and get to Swayze a few times this season. Here's to Rebel Baseball being back, and here's to 2016.





'Baseball Buddha' To Visit Swayze This Weekend

John Reimer is the creator of Baseball Buddha, and he plans to attend Ole Miss-Georgia game on Saturday as part of his cross-country baseball road trip.

Baseball Buddha is a journey, a self-funded documentary of the spectator experience behind the love of baseball.  He travels by car and attends a different baseball game every day. The Ole Miss-Georgia game will be game 92 and day 100 on the road.

This journey, Reimer said, is his path to happiness, to enlightenment through baseball and the love of baseball, which started on February 14, the opening day for college baseball.

"I had become unhappy at my work, and my dad had triple bypass surgery last August," Reimer said. "I spent the first two or three nights with him, and the very first night, he was contemplating his life. We started talked about, 'What would you do if you could do anything?' I knew instantly what I would want to do. I wanted to ravel the country and see the country and go to a baseball game every day and then blog about the experience.

"I wanted to be happy. I wanted to start doing things that I wanted to do. I wanted to start living life with me dictating the terms. Everybody talks about doing things. There's a lot of talk, but then you have to act."

Through the use of social media, it is his goal to document the fan experience every day until the final pitch is thrown and the last out is played. It's not just the game itself, he said, but it's the fan experience with the game and searching and reporting the best stories of the common baseball fan. It's what certain parts of the country are like and finding out for himself.

 For Reimer, this is part of his second trip through the South, having visited Southern Miss and Alabama his first time through but he decided to come back through because of the fans and energy. That's what brings him to Ole Miss on Saturday. He will book end his visit to Swayze Field with a game at Mississippi State on Friday and the Memphis Redbirds on Sunday.

"I heard awesome things about and wanted to hit Mississippi State and Ole Miss," Reimer said. "When I was driving through Alabama on my first trip, I listened to an Ole Miss game because it was the only game on the radio and I could feel the energy from the broadcast. The fans are rabid down there. The energy is awesome."

For more information on John Reimer, his daily blog updates and ways to support him, visit www.baseballbuddha.com.

Running Solo: The Story Of The Yellow Cup

A Special Place Called Swayze

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When you step into Oxford University Stadium/ Swayze Field you can almost immediately tell that there is something different about this place. The first time I was able to walk through the stadium was in 2003, as a student manager. For two years I came to work everyday at Swayze field. I was lucky enough to come back to Ole Miss Athletics in 2008 and see that Swayze had not only grown in popularity, but also  in size. As a manager, I remember the detail Coach Bianco always showed when it came to aspects of the program, a characteristic he still has today. Even though the field is named after legendary coach Tom Swayze I believe the case could be made that Coach Bianco is the legal guardian. As a manager you begin to meet all types of people that love Ole Miss and in particular Ole Miss baseball. I remember the first time I met the late Ernie LaBarge, founder and long-time operator of the bullpen club. His love for Ole Miss baseball was unparalleled. The things he did for the baseball program are still shining through today. As the program continues to grow, so does the luster and aura of Swayze field.

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