Photo Gallery: Yardcocks begin practice

The first day of baseball practice was also the first chance to see the nearly-completed new Carolina Stadium. Head coach Ray Tanner spoke about the new stadium, and photographer Mike Watson was on hand to visually document the beginning of a new era in Carolina baseball.

The stadium is not completely finished. Sitting in the stands, the stadium looks and feels finished, but there are occasional reminders that the work is ongoing. There is still protective plastic wrap on a few of the hand rails. One never knows when one might come across a stray cup-holder or chair lying on the ground. There are no advertisements on the scoreboard, and very little of the interior decorating has been done in the suites and press areas. Like any construction project, there is also a lot of dirt and trash that needs to be cleaned up. With 20 days until the opener, there is still plenty of time, and the important stuff is already finished.

"I don't know if everything will be completely finished," Tanner admitted. "I know from a baseball standpoint we're pretty much up and running. Whether all the signage is done and those things, there may be something missing here and there. I don't think it will be anything that anybody will notice on opening day."

Tanner knows the stadium as well as anyone. He worked for years to get the stadium built, and saw countless variations in the stadium's location and design. He made regular lunchtime appearances at the construction site. After a particularly tough series at LSU last season, Tanner regrouped while sitting in his car late at night, looking at the site.

"By my own admission, I've probably spent too much time out here since ground was broken," he said. "I know some construction verbiage that I never knew before."

The stadium is brightly colored. There are no ads on the outfield wall, just pure green. The seats, fencing, and almost everything else imaginable are painted garnet. From the field, the batters' eye obstructs the view somewhat, but from the stands spectators have a clear view of downtown Columbia. The field is ringed by a wide concourse that goes around the entire stadium and has ample room for fans to stroll along, unlike the often cramped walkways at Sarge Frye Field.

"It turned out even better than I could have expected," Tanner said. "It's really a big league facility without the upper deck."

Not everything has gone off without a hitch, of course. There is an interlocking SC logo on the side of each row of seats. Several of the logos were screwed onto the chair upside down. The rumor is, if one more reporter reminds baseball spokesperson Andrew Kitick about the mistake, he will start handing out screwdrivers so the reporter can fix the problem himself.

Without further ado, here is a full photo gallery featuring several shots of the Gamecocks' new ball park on the first day of baseball practice:

Photo Gallery By Mike Watson

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