A weekend of rivalry and revelry in Baton Rouge for MSU-LSU baseball

Part One: The Titanomachy

Walking through the grandstands of Alex Box early in the game Friday night, a Mississippi State fan stopped me as I passed. After talking for a moment (he was a State grad, but his daughter, sitting nearby, had attended LSU), he introduced me to the friend he was standing with: a man with blue jeans, gray hair and a bright purple pullover.

The Tiger fan had a name he told me, but I quickly lost it when he started talking about the famous names in baseball history, sharing the stories he seemingly had stored at the front of his mind for decades, waiting for any opportunity to share with the right crowd.

I, in a maroon and white jacket, was his preferred crowd, the friend with him likely there for the umpteenth performance.

In 1985, the older man was just a man, not yet gray and not yet a baseball fan. He’d always cheered for LSU, making it to every football game he could, but baseball had never held his interest.

A-BTO6lCQAAN-d6.jpg-large

Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro

However, that year, he recalled, he had an opportunity his Tigers hadn’t yet provided him. The top-ranked team in the country was taking the diamond in Baton Rouge.

“I had to see it,” he said. “Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark – I wanted to see No. 1 Mississippi State.”

On Friday night, the first game of the series, that Tiger fan made his way to the stadium, where luck nearly prevented him from witnessing one of the greats.

Somehow, the Bulldogs’ starting pitcher had missed the bus from Starkville. Not content to take the weekend off, however, he drove himself from northeast Mississippi down to Baton Rouge, making it in time for the game.

That spring night, starting pitcher Jeff Brantley and No. 1 Mississippi State beat LSU 7-0.

“I’ve been a baseball fan ever since,” the smiling Tiger fan told me, despite his school having lost.

Nearly 20 years later, he finally made the return trip to see the team which had accidentally awoken his love for baseball. Last season, this LSU fan travelled to Starkville to see the Bulldogs and Tigers, two clubs who would ultimately make it to Omaha and the College World Series by season’s end.

“I always wanted to go to Dudy Noble Field,” he said. “It was on my bucket list.”

After the Friday night game, he went out to the parking lot and discovered his car to be broken down. Within minutes, one of the many State fans passing by stopped and offered help.

“He was a lawyer, wouldn’t you know it? I’m a lawyer, too, though.”

The maroon-clad lawyer gathered friends to help his purple and gold counterpart.

“They gave me a drink and told me to relax while they fixed my car.”

Once they had him fixed up, the MSU fans invited the grateful Tiger to join them at their tailgate in the Left Field Lounge the rest of the weekend, an offer he happily accepted, getting more than he expected while crossing one more item off his bucket list.

“That’s the way baseball should be,” he told me, as a means of ending the story he so enjoyed telling.

BNXDNNWDPNOPPWK.20110421225002Beyond the fences, outside the foul lines and behind the dugouts, he’s right. That’s how it’s been for MSU and LSU, the traditional powers of SEC baseball. Both will tell you they have the best fans in college baseball. Perhaps each is right in their own way – the best possible backers for their particular brand of coach, player and game.

The passion comes from success, and from that success has come decades of rivalry on the field, battles for supremacy not just in their corner of the country but across the entire nation, one or the other making seemingly annual pilgrimages to Omaha each June.

One of the most ancient of stories is known only by reference to its existence in other historic texts. The great Greek epic called the Titanomachy, also known as the War of the Titans, centers on the mythical battles of those who ruled the Earth long before humans arrived to till soil and hunt game, and its full text has never been found, only re-created from references elsewhere in a millennia of Greco-literature.

The Olympians, as legend tells it, lived to the north on Mount Olympus, while the Titans fought from the south on Greece’s Mount Othrys. The final war lasted 10 years, though years and years before were the first battles fought amongst the Titans.

Perhaps, MSU coach John Cohen said last week, a big reason for the rivalry between his school and LSU is that, for so long, theirs were the only fan bases in the SEC who really traveled, who showed genuine and consistent passion both at home and on the road.

Having played at MSU, Cohen has known the rivalry longer than most, one that started with success by the Maroon and White. His Bulldogs were the first of the two programs to reach the College World Series, making the journey out west four times before the Tigers could reach it once. Almost fittingly, LSU’s first appearance came in 1986, just one year following that 1985 No. 1 MSU team.

All together, the programs have combined for 25 trips to the College World Series.

In 1990, Cohen was a senior for the Bulldogs when both clubs made it to Omaha, an SEC West feat which happened again in ’97 and ’98.

But after 1998, the Bulldogs only made it back once over the next 15 years, and by 2009 LSU had won its sixth National Championship.

It was that year when Cohen returned to Starkville, named the head coach of his alma mater, taking over for Ron Polk, the legend who built the program and the man he played under.

Those in Starkville and Baton Rouge didn’t know it, but the war which had seemingly laid dormant for so long was about to begin again.

As the ancient text once told it, Cronus was the ruler of the Titans during their longest reign. His lordship over Earth began when he overthrew Ouranos, the father of the Titans. His very own dad, in fact.

As he lay dying at the hands of his son, Ouranos used his final breath to prophesy that Cronus’ children would one day do to him what he had done to his own father, bringing down Cronus’ rule.

zeus-von-einem-anderen-planeten-sch-ne-bilder-und-fantasy-192075To prevent an uprising, Cronus is said to have swallowed his children whole immediately upon birth, ending any chance they would have to grow up and take him from his throne. But his wife, horrified at the fate of her children, saved the youngest offspring by wrapping a rock in a blanket, which Cronus foolishly and unknowingly swallowed thinking it was the child. For years, baby Zeus grew in secret, away from his father’s paranoid eye.

Once reaching adulthood, Zeus disguised himself and worked as a servant for his unwitting father, perfectly placed to begin the war when the time came.

After graduating from MSU, Cohen continued his career in baseball, working his way through the ranks of the coaching fraternity. In 2002, those travels brought Cohen back to the SEC as an assistant at Florida. By 2004, his résumé` landed him the head coaching job at Kentucky, where he built a program nearly from scratch, the Wildcats becoming one of the top contenders in the SEC.

Finally, it was in 2009 when he returned to Mississippi State, taking his rightful place as the leader of the program, to begin re-building the proud tradition of Bulldog baseball.

It was no quick fix, to be sure, but by 2011 he had MSU back in the NCAA Tournament. In 2012, his team won the SEC Tournament. Then, in 2013, his Bulldogs broke through.

For the first time in a decade, MSU was host to an NCAA Regional. State made quick work of the homestand, swept through the Super Regional the next weekend and rapidly found itself at a familiar home – the College World Series.

That postseason run ended in the championship series, MSU finishing as finalists, capping the best season in the history of the university’s many athletic programs.

It also signaled a return by the Bulldogs to their natural place on the front lines of the war for the SEC and country, a mountain of baseball success and history in the Western Division returned from temporary dormancy.

The mountain to the south, LSU also appeared in that 2013 World Series, marking the fourth time the two titans of college baseball had reached the big stage in the same year.

For 10 years after Zeus’ surprise return, he led the Olympians in battles against the old guard of the rulers of the heavens.

Battles were fought at each mountain base, and plenty more in the valleys between. In the midst of loss after loss in overthrow efforts, Zeus was given his most cherished gifts, lightning and thunder, which he eventually used to turn the tides of bloodshed and win the grandest-scaled war history has ever known, relegating his defeated opponents to an eternity of servitude while the Olympians ruled.

So long as the SEC stands, so will MSU and LSU, along with a dozen others. In a conference so competitive as theirs, Cohen said, every week is a rivalry match-up. Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida, he listed off, all considered rivals of certain degrees.

The successes or failures of Bulldogs and Tigers are in no way dependent on the other, but the inherent respect for history in baseball makes these battles some of the best every year.

MSU and LSU playing in 1907 at Hardy Athletic Field at Mississippi A&M (Courtesy SB Nation, Mississippi State University Libraries, University Archives)

MSU and LSU playing in 1907 at Hardy Athletic Field at Mississippi A&M (Courtesy SB Nation, Mississippi State University Libraries, University Archives)

Legends like Polk and Skip Bertman are the founding fathers, while Cohen and Paul Mainieri are the present-day mantle bearers. Many of the SEC’s best players and biggest names moved through these programs over years and years of victories.

MSU has reached the College World Series in each of the last five decades, 50 years of unrivaled achievement.

LSU’s championships and accolades speak for themselves.

In the grandstands of Alex Box over the weekend, maroon and purple intermingled, seated next to each other, lining up behind one another and re-living decades of success, not thinking that years from now these are the “glory days” they’ll find themselves remembering and longing for.

On the field, from first pitch to last, few teams are more passionate about their fight. Just as competition breeds success, so success will breed competition in this never-ending question of who wants to beat each other more.

Battles on weekends are won and lost, but the War of the Titans, the fight for college baseball supremacy, has just begun to re-kindle its flame.

Part Two: The Journey

“I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round,

The one with the prettiest of views,

It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers,

It’s got sights to give you shivers,

But it sure would be prettier with you…

“And I’m leaving tomorrow. What d’you say?”

I needed a ride to Baton Rouge.

The Diamond Girls needed someone to take them.

Certainly not advanced enough in years to be a dad, I am at least of age to qualify as, perhaps, a responsible older brother, so myself and Rhett Hobart in MSU’s marketing department signed on to escort the Diamond Girls to and from the MSU at LSU baseball series.

The assignment I was given: enjoy the weekend as a spectator. Avoid the press box, find the people and the stories of an historic college baseball rivalry. Experience the journey as one on the road searching for food, fun and fellow Bulldog travelers.

11 a.m. Friday, Palmeiro Center parking lot

“You’re coming with us?”

“I’m your chaperone,” I answered.

“Best day ever,” Walker responded.

There were eight girls on the trip. Eight. Not seven, six, or any less. If we came back with seven, there would be problems. Every stop, start and movement in between came with a count-off. Gotta make sure we have all eight.

I discovered along the way that nothing is so quite so humbling as traveling with this group of Diamond Girls, fun as it may be.

Our first stop after leaving Starkville was two hours down the road in Madison, a quick timeout from the asphalt for lunch and bathroom breaks.

As half of us ate burgers and the other half waited on their meals, a lady walked over to our corner of the dining area.

“Y’all are the Diamond Girls!” she exclaimed in southern delight. “I have your calendar in my office. I see y’all every day.”

Those calendars are how trips like this happen, scraping together a budget any way they can. The Diamond Girls had to move a lot of calendars to make the two-week trip to Omaha last summer a reality.

Back in the van after our quick meal, a request came for Drake Radio on Pandora. If Rhett and I thought we were hip before (we didn’t), our complete lack of recognition for any song played proved us wrong.

Our time came soon enough as the road wound on.

“I think they’re all asleep if we want to change the music,” I told him after a glance back at the three rows of sleeping diamonds.

“Please,” he responded.

“‘90s Hits?”

“Perfect.”

6 p.m., Alex Box Stadium

Alex Box Stadium

Alex Box Stadium

This was my first trip to Baton Rouge. Somehow, in years of football, basketball and baseball, I’d never made it down.

Beyond excitement for the ballyhooed food scene, I’d been told LSU has one of the best baseball atmospheres in the country in the new Alex Box Stadium, something I was anxious to experience.

Within sight of Tiger Stadium, it’s a pretty park from the outside, and after running by will call and through the gate, we walked up the steps and into the concourse for our first view of the inside.

However, the first thing to catch my eye wasn’t the clean grass, the suspended sky boxes or the perfectly-Louisianan bottles of Zatarains seasoning sitting right next to ketchup and mustard on the condiment stands.

The first person to cross my view was wearing a tight-fit maroon jersey T-shirt with white stripes on the shoulders and the name “Palmeiro” printed across the back.

State fans travel well, too, you know.

There was no dedicated visitor seating in the park, but maroon and white were splashed among purple and gold throughout the entire place.

Being with the Diamond Girls likely enhanced our welcome, as every Bulldog we saw waved, smiled or stopped to chat.

“Whenever we walked in the gate, it’s like we were famous,” one of them said in the van after the game.

Indeed, it felt that way, though it wasn’t just their presence which made it so.

There’s something about finding kinship in a strange land, and Baton Rouge certainly is that, in the tastiest and most enjoyable of ways.

In Starkville, seeing someone in a Mississippi State shirt or hat is expected. They get no different response in passing than any other person walking down the sidewalk.

But on the road, someone who would otherwise just be another stranger in the sea of faces becomes a treasured friend, a family member you’d somehow forgotten you had.

Handshakes, conversations, hugs and “Hail State!” followed us throughout the weekend, all of them offered in return.

Of course, it wasn’t just the MSU fans there. While blood boiled on the field between the two dugouts, the LSU fans behind the wall [mostly] welcomed us like travelers at a country inn.

unnamedSitting behind the MSU dugout, two of the Diamond Girls on a break from on-field duty watched as the game progressed. In front of them, three young boys sat between mother and father, all Tiger fans.

Like moth to flame, the 10-and-under boys couldn’t help chatting up the college girls who happened in behind them, sharing their peanuts with their new crushes and giggling amongst themselves every time Kelly or Jordyn smiled at them.

“Do y’all dance?” one of them asked after seeing LSU’s dance team do a routine on top of the dugout.

“Well, we do the Chicken Dance sometimes,” Kelly responded.

“That’s embarrassing,” the boy responded, sending he and his friends into fits of laughter.

A few innings later and a little ways down the third base line, sitting a few rows up in a stadium very much on top of the field, two more MSU fans had made the journey to foreign territory.

The crack of a Bulldog bat sent a ball high, high into the air, sailing in the direction of the same box in which the pair sat. As the ball started to come down, the two reacted as instinctually as possible.

In the aisle seat on the left, one turned to make a run for it, snagged her foot on the step next to her chair and fell knees-first into concrete stadium. Next to her, terrified fan No. 2 dove right, wanting no part of the fast-moving ball coming her direction and not even caring that she had overturned their shared cup of Coke with only one sip taken.

One with bloody shins and the other with cola-soaked shoes, the two looked up from the ground in time to see the ball fall safely into the glove of the LSU third baseman next to the wall in foul territory.

Post-game, Friday

On the way back to our van outside the stadium, Rhett, myself and all eight of the diamond crew passed by a vendor selling miniature remote-controlled helicopters.

“One for five dollars,” he called. “Or get two for 10!”

“Any of y’all doing the math on that?” Sarah Beth asked. “What a deal,” she sarcastically finished

The after-game dinner gathering came at an establishment named Fred’s, though I never did meet Fred himself, if he actually exists.

Like at the stadium, the first person I noticed was wearing a jersey shirt. This one: Pistol Pete. We were certainly in LSU territory.

The mixture of people was unique. One young man, leading a girl he presumably knew to the dance floor, accidentally knocked over a stool on the way, the seat of which landed precisely in the middle of my big toe.

He looked at me, terrified, struggling for apologetic words, scared for no reason that the least intimidating person in the place might be angry.

“It’s fine,” I told him smiling, and picked up the stool as I waved him off.

Not long after, I turned to find a group of Diamond Girls listening to the lectures of another young man in an LSU jacket.

“I make more money than you,” he said to me as I walked up.

“Um, nice to meet you. I’m Bob.”

Maybe it was a joke. Maybe he hadn’t yet learned how to impress women in a more subtle manner. But, somehow, the conversation actually turned positive as we talked about what we do, even discovering a mutual friend as we discussed baseball, football and life in the SEC.

Before long, the girls stood alone as, despite his apparently great riches, he was completely happy to talk sports with this State writer.

The night ended as any evening on the road should, with the singing of the fight song by the gathered groups of MSU fans who had found each other in enemy land.

Saturday morning, team hotel

My toe hurts.

Just as in the stadium, any MSU fans in the hotel made a point of interaction.

At breakfast downstairs, I found two of my favorite people, longtime State supporters I know well from the Left Field Lounge (and elsewhere).

We sat and talked over toast, fruit and waffles until well after the restaurant had shut down, chatting about movies, books and experiences with LSU people, with even a few war stories interspersed, somehow leading to more conversations about music.

Midway through, the parents of MSU catcher Zach Randolph passed through, stopping to talk as they started their day.

By the time fellowship in the now-empty dining hall had finished, it was time for lunch.

unnamed-5A friend of the Diamond Girls had graciously offered to take us to lunch at The Chimes right on the edge of campus, the one place I’d been told I must visit or suffer pain of unfulfillment.

As we waited outside, a guy in a Louisiana-Lafayette shirt walked by.

“Go Cajuns!” Walker called as he passed.

He turned to see where it came from, waved, then smacked directly into a parking meter, stomach first, as he turned back around to keep walking.

Humbling, these Diamond Girls can unintentionally be.

Starkville has no lack of delicious eats, so we certainly stay well and enjoyably-fed in our town, but the experience of eating new food for the first time is one of the best parts of any road trip.

The Chimes delivered on expectations. Crawfish and three cheese macaroni. Duck and sausage gumbo. Boudin balls. Seafood pasta. Crab and alligator, cheese and jalapeno, chicken and shrimp. Po boys, platters and deep-fried members of the entire animal kingdom.

It ruined us in the best way.

2 p.m., Saturday, LSU campus

With hours to kill until that night’s game, we took an intentioned walk through campus as someone informed us that the hit movie ‘Pitch Perfect’ had actually been filmed at LSU. The Diamond Girls wanted badly to see the picturesque amphitheater from one big scene in the film, so we began the search, asking anyone we could find for directions.

Nearly there, interruption came in the form of a golf cart stopping some ways away to ask if we wanted any T-shirts.

Sure, we yelled back.

With a bang, a ball of cotton came flying our direction, shot out of a T-shirt cannon they’d been hiding in the back. Seven more pops of the machine sent the eight girls (I counted) weaving around each other to get the free souvenir.

Then, around the corner, we finally found the spot we had been searching for.

unnamed-6Concrete benches rose in growing half circles up the hill, full live oaks looking over the seemingly-ancient amphitheater, our group nestled at the bottom.

On stage right, four actors rehearsed a play. On stage left, Skylar had discovered a cup, leading to a rendition of the song made popular by the ‘Pitch Perfect’ movie.

“I got my ticket for the long way ‘round…” Kelly sang the Anna Kendrick solo as Jordyn rhythmically tapped and bounced the cup on the side of the stage.

Back at the hotel, I missed the first elevator up when I stopped to chat with one of MSU’s team managers.

Moments later, I hopped on the next elevator up behind a group of teenage girls as one of the Bulldog baseball players stepped off.

“Did you see him?” one of the girls asked the group, obviously smitten at first sight.

“Mhmm, I did,” the one next to the floor buttons replied.

“His name is Demarcus,” I told them.

When the giggling subsided (theirs, not mine), they had time enough to respond.

“Are you a coach?” one of them asked as the door opened on floor seven.

I smiled and wordlessly stepped off, fighting the urge to introduce myself as John Cohen.

Saturday afternoon, alumni tailgate

We got to the stadium early Saturday with the intentions of stopping by the MSU tailgate on our way into the game, though it took some time after a group of LSU tailgaters stopped Skylar to offer the group crawfish, games and a batter-wrapped creation only I was brave enough to try.

unnamed-2Eventually, however, we made it, and on arrival we were welcomed with shrimp, fruit, smiles and offered-but-politely-declined drinks.

The Baton Rouge chapter of the MSU Alumni Association has only recently started to get on its feet, I’m told, but with a sizable group, they’ve had some success. Companies like Dow lead to many MSU-trained engineers ending up in LSU country. Now, it’s just a matter of getting them together and finding them amongst the heavy Tiger following in the city.

A few minutes into conversation with one of the Bulldogs under the tent (“So, what’s gonna happen in football this season?”), I looked up to see two Diamond Girls standing on oak branches 10 feet in the air, looking down at two more who were trying to figure out how to get their friends out of the tree they had so easily scaled.

“We really didn’t plan out the getting down part when we started climbing,” Sara Beth said as she looked down at Anna and Walker in cheerleader positions trying to ease the descent.

“I think I broke my ankle,” Sloan laughed after her dismount brought the whole group tumbling down near the big roots of the oak tree.

Talking to an LSU fan who happened to be at the MSU tailgate, he told me has was from Natchez, Miss., and lives in Jackson now. He went to LSU and shared stories of the old Alex Box from when he was in school, but conceded the point in bragging rights to MSU and Dudy Noble Field.

“I love The Box,” he told me, “but we don’t have anything like the Left Field Lounge.”

Very few do.

6:30 p.m., Saturday, game two

That said, what LSU does have that State does not is a nacho machine in the press box. It’s the same thing you see in concessions stands, only untrained and ever-hungry media are allowed to operate it at will. A bowl of tortilla chips sits between and a cheese and chili machine and a hot dog warmer, offering ballpark food to those working the game.

Like any good journalist, I’ll never turn down free food. As a guest, I’d consider it rude to even think about doing so.

When I came back to our seats in the stands with a full plate of a chili-cheese covered chips and a bottle of water, I realized what my dad must have felt like when he used to order a pizza for himself, only to have my brother and I lay claim to half of it, despite having already eaten our own dinners.

“Ohhh, nachos,” Anna exclaimed upon my arrival.

“Is that water?” Sarah Beth asked.

“Can I have a chip?”

The voices ran together as I gave up and passed the plate and bottle down the line.

A small sacrifice, I suppose.

The usual sights and sounds of game play continued as Ross Mitchell took the mound for the Bulldogs.

“He’s got some kind of wind up,” an LSU fan behind us remarked.

During the seventh inning stretch, the grounds crew stopped mid-sweep to perform a choreographed dance to ‘I Will Survive’ in the dirt by second base.

Post-game, Saturday

Following the game and a bit of discussion, Fred’s once again turned out to be the post-game destination as we explored Baton Rouge and “Tiger Land,” the area of town similar to Starkville’s historic Cotton District.

Within minutes of finding a table, a young man approached us. Sitting there surrounded by college girls, I was a bit surprised when he came up and talked to me, not the eight (still got all of ‘em) Diamond Girls surrounding me.

He’d seen the MSU jacket I had on and wanted to talk about the game.

“My SEC brother!” he called, holding out his hand for a hearty shake.

As we talked, he chalked it up to a bad day for the Bulldogs, saying that surely the battle for the SEC West and the entire conference itself would continue all season.

In line for the bathroom, another LSU fan spotted the jacket, too.

“Who won the game?” he asked.

He genuinely seemed to have no clue.

Much to mine and the Diamond Girls’ pleasure, it was apparently ‘90s night at Fred’s, meaning overly-enthusiastic singing to N*Sync, Spice Girls and the like.

The entirety of the crowd stared when ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ came on, perplexed at the group of girls who were dancing and singing like they had just won the lottery.

Sunday afternoon, game three

After one stop for lunch and a second to pick up gummi worms for one of the MSU pitchers, we arrived for the final game of the series, rain coming down on and off, with winds making the air feel cooler than it should on an April afternoon. It was here we found ourselves next to the biggest character of the weekend.

Every team has super fans. The most visible and often the loudest in any stadium, coliseum or park, it’s the fan who everyone recognizes.

If they’re cheering for your team, you love them. If they’re cheering for the other team, you loathe them.

LSU’s is the K Lady. Like the Candyman at MSU, she surely has a real name, but odds are that very few know it.

After every strikeout by the Tigers, K Lady yells as loud as she can and pulls a purple plastic board with a big yellow K on it out of a bag by her seat. She holds it high over her head as she jogs down the stairs to hang it on the railing along the front of her portion of the grandstand, the metal chain tied onto it clinking the whole way.

She starts cheers between strikeouts, yells for her players before and after each at-bat, starts vocal movements throughout the stadium; she’s the de facto leader of the crowd.

Looking closely, you’ll see the earrings she wears are two silver Ks, one hanging from each ear.

The cheers rarely stop.

“What are they chanting?” Jordyn asked mid-game Sunday.

“I don’t think it even matters,” someone replied. “Just making noise.”

Like anywhere, of course, there are all types of people.

While it evokes the deepest and loudest of passions for some, baseball is a leisurely event for spectators, particularly on Sunday afternoons. Something in the nostalgia about the sport and the pace of play make baseball a supremely romantic game.

As the rain came down Sunday afternoon, the final contest of the weekend continued while those not under the roof of the stadium moved in search of drier seats.

unnamed-3Finding an open spot in front of us, an older man slowly led his wife to a seat where she would be protected from the rain. For the entirety of the game, husband sat with arm wrapped around wife, a couple happy to be together and watch a game they enjoy.

But without doubt, the love in the stadium was blocked by an invisible barrier before it could hit the field as the two teams who so dislike each other played through the wet afternoon.

In a dually-unintentional tip of the hat and shot across the bow, Jonathan Holder was on the mound as LSU’s Mark Laird stepped into to the batter’s box with his walkout song playing – God’s Gonna Cut You Down by Johnny Cash, the same song Holder famously comes out to in Starkville.

As the game wound down, two of us went to the concourse, seeking consolation and encouragement in the form of fried food, the way God intended.

At the first concession stand, we were told they were out of corndogs, “but they might have some down there,” a very nice girl told us.

“We don’t have any right now,” the guy at the register ‘down there’ sadly shared. “But if you wait 5-8 minutes we can make some for you.”

“Perfect,” I said. “Two please.”

5-8 minutes later, we got the freshest corndogs LSU had to offer.

“I’m so happy,” Avery said. “This is the bright spot in today.”

Though there were certainly other happy moments, too. On both Saturday and Sunday, the Diamond Girls made it onto the video board after tweeting their pictures from the stands in LSU’s “#SnapLSU” promotion. Cheers erupted amongst the group on each occasion, Walker, Sarah Beth and Sloan feeling like they had gained at least one small victory over the Tigers by putting MSU’s Diamond Girls on their big screen.

MSU assistant coach Nick Mingione displayed on Sunday the sportsmanship which helps make baseball so special. After scooping up a foul ball late in the game, Mingione tossed it to a young boy in an MSU shirt sitting nearby, an innocent and routine enough act.

To his surprise, however, two young boys wearing LSU gear were very upset to have not received the prize.

“I’ll get you one, I promise,” he yelled from his post next to third base.

After the next batter, a manager passed him a spare ball, which he happily threw to the two little fans on the front row.

The ride home, Sunday night

The game ended in fitting fashion for the weekend’s weather, gray and gloomy all over. Loss is never fun, obviously, and especially not so when it comes after vaulting to a tie for first in the SEC

But, like the weather, forecasts and fortunes change. Today’s showers are tomorrow’s flowery fields and one weekend’s losses are the next weekend’s motivation. In a long season, and with nearly anything still possible and even realistic, MSU only finds itself two games out of that first place spot it so painfully vacated in Baton Rouge.

The literal road back to Starkville Sunday and the figurative road the Bulldogs are on this season are both littered with storms. Ours, at least, ended on the safe side of the tumult.

The night wore on and the rain let up while Rhett and I sat in the front of the van as saturated green shapes popped up along the road out of the gray misty wall hiding our horizon. Behind us were quietly sleeping diamonds, resting up for the next game.

Baton Rouge was only one stop along the way to wherever this season leads.

Next up: Ole Miss and Super Bulldog Weekend at Dudy Noble Field. They’ll need the rest.

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One Response to A weekend of rivalry and revelry in Baton Rouge for MSU-LSU baseball

  1. Pingback: College baseball’s regal rivalry: Mississippi State vs. LSU | College Baseball Daily

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