"First and foremost, it's about the weekend and getting former players back of all eras," said Bianco, entering his 11th season as head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. "We're super excited that's going to happen. It's something we've wanted to do for many years now. But for one reason or another, we hadn't been able to do so. There doesn't seem to be a better time to do it than right now."
More than 100 former players from the past 50-plus seasons have already signed up. More are expected. The actual alumni game is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 5. The current professional Rebels have been invited to play against the 2011 Ole Miss squad in that contest.
The other former players are in for a weekend of activities that will allow them to reminisce and to enjoy the company of players who have donned the red and blue for more than the past half a century. Former coaches, managers, and trainers are also invited to Oxford for the weekend.
There's a golf outing on Friday with lunch beginning at 11 a.m. at the Ole Miss Golf Course, followed by a four-person golf scramble at noon.
"That's the first event we'll have that weekend," said Ole Miss baseball director of operations Fuller Smith, himself a former player from the Bianco era. "There's a cookout immediately following that at the golf course. That night there's a social at the Inn at Ole Miss. Just a time to hang out and reconnect. That's what this weekend is all about."
Saturday is the big day, and that's when fans will be involved in the activities. While a lunch is going on for former players in the Diamond Club, the fans may enter the stadium beginning at 11 a.m. for the 1 p.m. game.
"The alumni baseball members will take a tour of the stadium along with their guests," Smith said. "They can tour the facility and see what we've been able to do here. They can see the locker room, equipment room, meeting room, the field. They'll have an all-access pass.
"Some of these guys haven't seen the stadium as it is now," Smith continued. "So we'll show them all that, and then they can hang out on the field while the teams take batting practice."
After the game there is a barbecue planned for the alumni in town for the event. At that point the planned events are over. Participants are on their own to enjoy the remainder of the weekend as they choose.
Smith and Bianco encourage fans to go ahead and purchase tickets. They are hopeful of a large turnout.
"Fans can interact with the alumni players throughout the day inside the stadium and along the front row of seats," Smith said. "There won't be an actual table set up or time for autographs and pictures. But we encourage fans to visit with them throughout the day – not on the actual field but from the stands and when they see them in the stadium itself."
Tickets at $5 each may be purchased at the baseball office, at the alumni association office, at Rebel Rags on West Jackson Ave., and online at www.olemissalumni.com/events. For Ole Miss students, there is no charge to get into the game.
Proceeds from the event go toward helping the Ole Miss baseball program through the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club.
"We're not sure how often we'll do this," Smith said. "We'd like to do it every few years. But this may be the last time you see Chris Coghlan play at Swayze Field. This may be the last time you see Matt Tolbert play here. It's taken a lot to get these guys back here."
Smith says the fans were first and foremost in the minds of the staff when this was all planned.
"We really did it for the fans," he said. "We did it not only for the program to let the former players reconnect and be a part of something special. We did it for the fans. We want them to be here and enjoy this special event."
Bianco said he is looking forward to the weekend for a lot of reasons.
"For us it's almost two different things," he said. "It's welcoming back a lot of former baseball players, all of them who have meant a lot to this program. That will be fun for all of us who love Ole Miss baseball.
"The game will be a neat thing, and I think a lot of people will get a kick out of it," he continued. "And then all the money that will be raised through the game will go to the Bullpen Club, which goes directly to the baseball program. It's a weekend we're really looking forward to."
To join the bullpen club and support Ole Miss baseball, go to www.ernielabargebullpenclub.com.
The following are former Rebels still in the pros who have committed to participate in the alumni game:
P Nathan Baker (07-09)
P Aaron Barrett (09-10)
C Brett Basham (06-09)
P T.J. Beam (02-03)
P Brett Bukvich (06-09)
P Ryan Bukvich (98-99)
INF Evan Button (06-09)
OF Chris Coghlan (04-06)
OF Tim Ferguson (08-10)
P/UT Stephen Head (03-05)
OF Jordan Henry (07-09)
INF/OF Justin Henry (05-07)
P Phillip Irwin (07-09)
P Lance Lynn (06-09)
INF Kevin Mort (09-10)
INF/OF Cody Overbeck (06-08)
P Drew Pomeranz (08-10)
OF Alex Presley (04-06)
INF Matt Tolbert (01-04)