Baseball stadium still a hub of activity

Ole Miss didn't qualify for Omaha last weekend, and the Rebels ended another successful season a win short of going to the College World Series. But the work goes on to get there soon, and there's a lot being done to keep Rebel baseball progressing.

Only a couple of hours after the announcement of a contract extension, a pay raise for him and his assistants, and saying he was staying, Mike Bianco was back out at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. So were his assistants.

There was a summer tournament going on. Teams from around the South are playing in it. Today, Bianco and staff were back out there as was athletics director Pete Boone.

Boone was there so he and Bianco could walk through some of the plans for the future of the facility. Someday soon Bianco and staff will call the place home – completely.

They've been in three different offices in six seasons, and in just a few days ground should be broken on the new offices we've heard about for a while. They'll be built just in front of the ticket office at Swayze, near the circular drive and parking area that has been there since the stadium opened in the fall of 1988.

Just as the work never ends for football, basketball, and other coaches, it certainly doesn't end for baseball coaches either. Dan McDonnell was there last night but on the road checking out future players today. Carl Lafferty, Stuart Lake, and Kyle Bunn were all at the stadium helping with the tournament.

There were some old familiar faces there as well. Former UM assistant during Bianco's first three seasons, Clint Carver, has a team up from Louisiana playing in the tourney.

Guy Gatlin, a former Rebel first baseman during the early years of the Don Kessinger era (1991-92), was here last night. He has a couple of his players from Parklane in McComb on Carver's team. Kary Bridges, a former Rebel infielder from 1991-93, coaches for the Mississippi Thunder, a team out of the Hattiesburg area.

C.J. Ketchum and Tommy Baumgardner were there last night. Baumgardner, now a professional baseball player, leaves Saturday to join his new ballclub, the Rockies rookie league team in the state of Washington. Ketchum says he will take classes this summer and remain in Oxford as he looks forward to his senior season with the Rebels.

Zack Cozart was wandering about the place today, wishing like I was that we were all in another town that starts with the letter O. Cozart will be leaving next week to participate in the USA National Baseball Trials beginning on June 22, as Zack is one of the initial 20 invitees to the camp. It marks the second-straight year Cozart has been invited to participate in the trials. The official roster will be announced on July 2.

Cozart once played for Dulin's Dodgers out of Memphis. Tim Dulin's ballclub is here for the tournament. Tennessee Vols outfielder Julio Borbon, who also played for Dulin's in the past, was at Swayze today as well. He too is headed for the USA trials.

Cozart went to the trials last season and wasn't chosen. More with Zack on his trip next week in a future story on here.

The baseball season may be over, but there is still a lot of activity at the ballpark. And with construction starting in the next several days on the new offices, the improvements in the outfield terracing areas won't be far behind.

Then after the 2007 season come the renovations of the grandstand with more seating, and the addition of club level seats. In other words starting soon there will be visible construction activity at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field ongoing for the next two years, give or take.

Briefly on next year's scheduling, the UCLA Bruins make a return trip to Oxford after the Rebels visited Los Angeles this past spring. Ole Miss is also set to participate in an early-season tournament in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, a tournament hosted by the Unversity of Minnesota. The Citadel is one team besides Ole Miss and Minnesota in the field. Not sure the others just yet.

I mentioned this yesterday in the column concerning Bianco staying, but I will say it again today. The head coach of Rebel baseball seems very happy, relaxed, and comfortable with his decision. Sure financially things are better, but the contentment of making the right choice, albeit a difficult one, and factoring in all the exciting aspects for the future mean the roots of the program now run deep.

They may not be in Omaha this weekend, but the work goes on in every aspect to make sure the Rebels get there in the near future.

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