On schedule

The start of the 2009 college baseball season is 24 days away and LSU Associate Athletic Director Eddie Nunez says everything is on scheduled for the Tigers to open the season in the New Alex Box Stadium.

“The field is about 98 percent complete,” said Nunez, who oversees Operations and Project Development at LSU. “We got some last minute items that we’re trying to address before we start practice. All the seating is complete and all of the suites are about 90 percent complete … So, we’re extremely excited about the progress at Alex Box.”


Nunez added that all of the parking lots may not be completed for the opening series but they will be usable. He added that the pavilion at the front entrance will be completed following the 2009 season.


The original Alex Box Stadium was completed in 1938 and last season was the Tigers’ last year in the 70-year old facility.


Tiger fans have many fond memories of the old venue and they will see a touch of the old Box when they make their way into LSU’s new home as some of the outfield bleachers have been transported to the new stadium.


“That’s one of the things we were trying to do is bring something from the old Box over,” Nunez said.


One piece of the Box that LSU fans will not see at the new stadium is the billboard in right field known as the “intimidator” which reminds all visitors of LSU’s five national championships.


“The actual “intimidator” cannot be moved,” said Nunez. “We’re looking at the possibility of doing something very similar to that feature but it’s something that we’re going to discuss after we move into the park.”


All of the hard work that Nunez and others have put in is appreciated by many, but perhaps none more so than LSU’s skipper himself.


LSU head coach Paul Mainieri and the Tigers already had one of the biggest home field advantages in college baseball with a seating capacity of 7,760 in the old stadium. The thought of having an extra thousand rabid Tiger fans in the new stadium on opening day on February 20 keeps Mainieri up on some nights. 


“My hair stands up on the back of my neck,” said Mainieri. “That February 20 can’t get here soon enough. I lie awake in bed at night and about 2 o’clock in the morning I wake up and I’m shot for the rest of the night because I have all kinds of visions racing through my head.


“It’s going to be a wonderful setting and I think the fans are going to want this ballpark. I’ve probably sat in 90 percent of the seats at some point in the last month and there’s not a bad seat in that house.”


The Tigers officially open practice this Sunday and that may also be the last time LSU takes the field at the Alex Box Stadium that sits on Nicholson Drive.


“We can’t say for certain that we’re going to be on the field this day or that day, but if everything goes as we hope it will go then our first day, our official practice on February 1, will literally be our last day in the old Alex Box Stadium,” said Mainieri.



From the Gridiron to the Diamond


A pair of LSU football players have been working out with the baseball team and there is a chance that both could be playing in the outfield together at some point this season.


However, while Jared Mitchell is projected to start in right field, Chad Jones has to prove himself a little more in order to make the 35-man roster.


“Chad has been working out and he’s been a model citizen,” Mainieri said. “He’s working as hard as anybody. He’s working hard in school and he hasn’t missed a class the entire semester so far.


“He’s been awe inspiring,” added Mainieri. “He’ll take three swings in a row and hit three in a row over the scoreboard. You watch him run from first to third and he brings back memories of Willie Mays. The guy is a phenomenal athlete.”


Mainieri has until February 19 to trim one spot from his roster that currently runs 36-deep. He stressed that Jones has not made the team and if he does make the 35-man squad he would be available for the non-conference schedule then he would go to spring football and return after April 18.


“If he stays he will be with us for the first 14 games and then leave the team to concentrate on spring football,” Mainieri said. “Spring football starts on March 12 and runs through April 18, so during that time he would be 100 percent dedicated to football.


“As soon as football is over he would then be with us for the last 18 games of the season, so when you do the math that’s 32 of 56 games plus postseason. If we’re fortunate enough to make a run he could be involved for over 40 games. Now, what I have to do by February 15 is make a decision on whether or not that’s worth it.”


Mitchell, on the other hand, will stick with baseball full-time this spring for the first time since he’s been at LSU.


Last season, the junior outfielder batted .297 with six homers and 29 RBI. He came on strong towards the middle of the year and should benefit from spending all of his time on the diamond with the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft looming in June.

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