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'The dude' abides: Cowbell Yell crowd gets look at Bulldog baseball's renovated home stadium

 

Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Ketchum, 4, left, and his big brother, Thomas Ketchum, 7, right, bump fists at Dudy Noble Field Tuesday with Mississippi State University's Tanner Allen, a freshman from Theodore, Alabama, and baseball player on the 2018 roster. The boys attended Cowbell Yell at the field with their dad, Michael Ketchum.

Ketchum, 4, left, and his big brother, Thomas Ketchum, 7, right, bump fists at Dudy Noble Field Tuesday with Mississippi State University's Tanner Allen, a freshman from Theodore, Alabama, and baseball player on the 2018 roster. The boys attended Cowbell Yell at the field with their dad, Michael Ketchum. "The fans are the best," Allen said.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff Parker

 

Lee Hester rings his cowbell along with hundreds more fellow MSU fans and students during Cowbell Yell.

Lee Hester rings his cowbell along with hundreds more fellow MSU fans and students during Cowbell Yell. "I wanted to come here to show my support for the new baseball team. I used to play in high school and still love it," he said. Hester is a marketing major from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Mississippi State University mascot Bully the Bulldog jokes with students during Cowbell Yell at Dudy Noble Field Tuesday.

Mississippi State University mascot Bully the Bulldog jokes with students during Cowbell Yell at Dudy Noble Field Tuesday.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Avid Mississippi State University sports fan Houston Everett makes his way out to see Dudy Noble Field and says hello to friends including Paul Sullivan, left, at Cowbell Yell Tuesday. Students were able to view the field and meet the baseball team during the event.

Avid Mississippi State University sports fan Houston Everett makes his way out to see Dudy Noble Field and says hello to friends including Paul Sullivan, left, at Cowbell Yell Tuesday. Students were able to view the field and meet the baseball team during the event. "I gave a talk to the basketball team earlier and also spoke to the baseball team this afternoon, I told them they were the best damn team in America, so they better play like it," Everett laughed. "He is really into sports around here, we've been friends for a while and he's just been known to be everywhere," Sullivan said of Everett. Everett graduated from MSU in 2015 with a communications major with an emphasis on public relations. Sullivan is a sophomore software engineer major from Taylorsville.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Mississippi State University students, from left, Kayla Johnwick, a pre-nursing major from Columbus; Alexis White, an elementary education major from Starkville; and Natalie King, a kinesiology major from Starkville; pose for a photo taken at Dudy Noble Field Tuesday. The students attended Cowbell Yell where they met the baseball team.

Mississippi State University students, from left, Kayla Johnwick, a pre-nursing major from Columbus; Alexis White, an elementary education major from Starkville; and Natalie King, a kinesiology major from Starkville; pose for a photo taken at Dudy Noble Field Tuesday. The students attended Cowbell Yell where they met the baseball team. "I've been coming to MSU baseball games since I was a little girl and I'm the biggest Jake Mangum fan," King said.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Brett Hudson

 

 

STARKVILLE -- For eight months, the complete destruction and rebuild of Dudy Noble Field and Polk-DeMent Stadium was concealed from the public, limited to just construction workers and occasional practices for the Mississippi State baseball team, under particular circumstances. 

 

Tuesday night, the updated college baseball haven and 2018 MSU baseball team was introduced to the public with Cowbell Yell, an annual preseason fan event. It was met with rave reviews from the crowd, which was the biggest MSU baseball's Cowbell Yell has ever drawn. 

 

"I think it's amazing," said Becca Flinbaugh, a senior at MSU. "I'm excited because students get to have nice seats." 

 

MSU opens play on the road Friday against Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. 

 

The season may start this week, but the wait to enjoy the new stadium for a game continues for nearly a full month: MSU doesn't play a home game until March 6. After the three-game series at Southern Miss, it will play at Jackson State before three games in Corpus Christi, Texas, and two more midweek games before three games in Houston at Minute Maid Park, the home of the Houston Astros. 

 

"I wish I would be able to see the team play here more this season," Flinbaugh said. 

 

Another fan at Cowbell Yell, Tyler Smith, added, "It will be different, for sure. You think it's coming this weekend, but you have to wait." 

 

It's all part of a diminished home schedule thanks to the ongoing construction at Dudy Noble Field. MSU will play 23 home games in 2018, a departure from the usual roughly 30. MSU scheduled accordingly so crews can continue working on the stadium during the season while the team is on the road, all working toward the new stadium being completed in time for opening day of the 2019 season. 

 

This year, the stadium will seat only 9,000 -- which is less than the old stadium's seating capacity. But when the upper deck in the grandstands is added for the 2019 season, seating will surpass the old stadium's capacity of roughly 15,000. 

 

 

 

A solid team 

 

Optimism for the upcoming season is easy to find both in the lineup and in the pitching staff. MSU coach Andy Cannizaro has raved about junior center fielder Jake Mangum, who won the Southeastern Conference batting title as a freshman and remained effective last year with a .324 batting average despite playing with a broken hand for nearly half of the season. In front of Mangum will be the double play combination of shortstop Luke Alexander and second baseman Hunter Stovall, which Cannizaro expects to be the best in the SEC and one of the best in the nation. 

 

Junior starting pitcher Konnor Pilkington is expected to be the star on the mound, coming off of a sophomore season as one of the SEC's best pitchers and a summer stint with the USA Baseball Collegiate Team. His help in the bullpen comes in the form of Riley Self, who was recently named to the watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's Stopper of the Year Award, given to the nation's best relief pitcher. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson

 

 

 

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