And opposing teams in awe of the stadium and the support the Rebels get. Tents that were already in place Wednesday on the right field terrace. Some students who welcomed (?) the opposing team as they practiced, like they did Thursday night.
And Omaha, which always works its way into the conversation. One of these days again…
The Alumni Game two weeks ago only whetted our collective appetites. Who among us didn't feel a bit of nostalgia and a sense of how good this program has become when we saw guys like Coghlan and Tolbert, Head and Presley, Lynn and the Henry brothers race out to their respective positions on Swayze Field?
Unfortunately, only a few of you braved the cold that day and were able to absorb the moment. Those who did got a jumpstart on Opening Day, which is now here.
Some moments amaze me each new year when it comes to Ole Miss baseball, from where it was to where it is. I was at a practice in January. Four students were up on the street outside the stadium. They yelled down at me and asked if practice was open.
"Yes," I said.
"How do we get in?" they asked, so I figured they were freshmen.
I pointed toward the main gate and they headed that way. I didn't think anything else about them until later as I was walking behind the home plate area and they all got up to leave. That's when more questions came my way.
What's the team like? Are they usually good? Are the crowds big? We are D-I in baseball, right?
OK, so they proved they were not only freshmen but also hadn't followed much college baseball.
Two were from northeast Georgia, one from St. Louis, and one said he was from Philadelphia.
"Mississippi?" I asked, knowing his accent didn't sound like David Goforth, Neshoba Central High alum and current Rebel pitcher.
"Pennsylvania," he said.
But not before one of them offered a statement, with which they all agreed.
"We'll be their biggest fans," he said.
Freshmen indeed. They have no idea the competition they're up against for that title.
So the four freshmen headed down the tunnel and left the stadium, talking among themselves, probably doing what hundreds or even thousands of other Ole Miss students and fans have done the last several weeks – making plans for Opening Day of baseball 2011.
It looks like the only thing that might spoil the weekend is the opposition. Wright State has already done that once. In 2007, the Raiders won two of three games in Oxford. This year they are picked to win their conference, the Horizon League. They are defending champs.
Wright State, in Ohio, had only practiced outside one time as of earlier this week. Four years ago when they came to Oxford and beat a Rebel team that would later play in a Super Regional, they hadn't been outside to practice at all.
In other words, beware of the Raiders.
But few heading to the ballpark today or listening by radio or keeping up on the internet are too concerned with the opposition. It's Opening Day. Opening weekend.
Doesn't matter if it's Wright State, Alcorn State, or Mississippi State.
Well, it would matter more if it was Mississippi State.
I got a text this morning that asked if today is Christmas. As I wrote this column, I actually started getting some e-mails from the old Section I gang, now down in Section M. The start of baseball season signals a brand new year for them.
Here is the initial e-mail, from group leader Tim Climer, which actually began with a list of potential downers. Like too much snow or the national debt or unemployment or Egypt's recent turmoil. Then it turned into these points.
Smoke wafting in the outfield.
Smell of cold beer or bourbon and coke.
Navy caps with crimson "M".
Coeds and alumnae in shorts.
Chicken-on-a-stick and tater logs.
4-6-3 DP's and doubles in the gap.
Big new video board.
Nachos and hot dogs and popcorn.
Old Glory flying high in the distance.
Happy New Year!
The first response to Tim's e-mail? From the father of the late Chip Clinton.
And as an appropriate end to this column and to the beginning of another baseball season, Eddie Clinton wrote a familiar phrase which for many says it all:
"Throw It In The Dirt!"