From left are Andy Greenhaw, Laura Greenhaw, Chad Dackus and Allen Greenhaw hanging out at the One Tortilla Grill lounge in the outfield of Dudy Noble Field during Mississippi State's weekend home baseball series against Vanderbilt. The outfield lounges sport a different look this year but provide much of the same feel as the old days. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
March 19, 2018 11:04:09 AM
A walk around the outfield of the so-called new Dudy Noble Field still invokes most of the same sensory experiences from the old one.
The voice of Jim Ellis is heard on radios throughout several lounges; the classic Left Field Lounge Lizard sign remains prominently displayed, with a Mississippi State tarp hanging over a lounge to its left; smoke from grills floats over the concourse that circles the entire outfield.
Sight is the only sense that's tipped off to the new environs. Gone are the homemade wooden structures that used to make up this outfield seating area; the only true woodwork is that which fans brought with them to personalize their lounges with custom seats. It is those wooden seats that embody both sides of the new outfield -- containing many of the parts of the old and revered, yet there's still something different about it all.
Conversations with MSU baseball fans taking in the first two weeks of home games at the new stadium showed a similar sense over the new surroundings -- enough personal flair to jog the memories from decades ago, yet balanced with the sense of something missing.
"It takes some getting used to because we had our routines down pat and all that," Lamar Benson, 61, said from his lounge during the March 9 doubleheader against Utah Valley, which MSU split. "When you've been doing something for 30 years, you kind of want to keep doing it."
To the veterans of the outfield -- Benson included, having been a regular since 1986 -- the differences are obvious. The structures fans used to populate the outfield with were part of the show, almost all of them unique in some way. Benson's lounge used to be a trailer with three levels of elevated seating. Now all lounges have very similar seating areas and sizes, all structured in the same way.
Those new lounges have affected some differently than others. Chad Dackus, 46, said his lounge, which he splits with Benson and others just right of center field, has less space than it did in previous seasons, but Benson pointed out they no longer have a wall obstructing their view of most of left field.
The lounges also give the best view of the benefits -- the new grandstands that serve as their backdrop, with more coming as construction continues to Opening Day 2019. Besides, they know not all has been lost.
"When they get this place finished, it'll be the best in the nation by far," Dackus said. "We're given a lot of liberties as far as what we can do and what we can bring in. They're still unique. It's just different."
One Tortilla Grill
Dackus and Benson were part of the crew that wasted no time making their lounge their own, beginning with the sign announcing its name: the One Tortilla Grill.
The story goes back to Super Bulldog Weekend last year. Their grill was the subject of a television camera coming back from a commercial break, and commentator Bart Gregory had an observation: in a crowd of hot dogs, sausage and the like, there was one tortilla. Gregory couldn't help but wonder who would receive the tortilla; the answer was a woman in the lounge that day who was making herself a wrap. But the answer wasn't as important as the nickname that came from the televised sequence. Now they have a red sign hanging on some lounge fencing with One Tortilla Grill printed over the top in white, sporting signatures of all of the lounge's visitors -- sports writers included.
There is more to come. A black box in the lounge contains, among other things, a white bat with a cowbell on it Dackus made as a MSU graduate student and a paper towel rack prominently featuring mascot Bully.
There is still more to come in the lounges around them, too; on the second level of lounges not far behind the One Tortilla Grill, some lounges are soon to be awarded to student organizations, next to some already in use by fraternities.
Dackus was confident the weekend's series and Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt was "going to be nuts." Energy of that ilk remains present in the new outfield, some of it ironically based in the new amenities. Dackus is a fan of the concourse that wraps around the stadium yet always providing a view of the field. Benson likes the on-site ice sales for lounge coolers.
In the Dudy Noble outfield, there is just as much to like as there is to get used to.
"The stadium is great. I love it," Benson said. "... I don't know if it'll ever feel the way it was.
"Everybody I know is the same way," he added. "We know it's not going to change, we might as well do it."
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