February 25, 2008
Mary Ann Travis
At the edge of the dugout, under a bright blue sky with a cool breeze blowing, Rick Dickson and Dr. Bobby Brown tossed a baseball back and forth on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 23). Dickson, Tulane athletics director, was warming up Brown for his ceremonial first pitch of the second game at the new Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
When Brown took the mound, he threw a slider across the plate to Green Wave catcher Jared Dyer.
Both Brown and Dyer have their place in Green Wave baseball history now. Dyer hit the first home run in the new stadium on Friday night (Feb. 22) in the first game of the three-game, season-opening series against the University of Illinois–Chicago.
The Green Wave swept the series, winning Friday's game 6-0, coming from behind to take a 4-3 victory on Saturday and dominating the Sunday contest, 9-2.
A junior from Deer Park, Texas, Dyer said, "I couldn't be happier to be in the new stadium."
Brown, a former Green Wave baseball player, played in four World Series with the New York Yankees in the early 1950s. He graduated from Tulane University School of Medicine, had a distinguished career as a cardiologist and served as president of Major League Baseball's American League.
Brown said he's grateful that Tulane allowed him to be a ballplayer and a medical student and that the tradition of student-athletes continues today.
The new stadium is "terrific," said Brown, and a far cry from the open space on McAlister Drive where he played for Tulane in the late 1940s and only 30 to 50 fans watched the games.
While it's a long way in time for Green Wave baseball from a sandlot half a century ago, it's almost as far a road in terms of recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
At Friday night's game, more than 5,000 fans packed the new $10 million stadium.
Tulane President Scott Cowen said, "I remember very distinctly, two and a half years ago, standing on this very site in three feet of water. Little did I ever imagine, two and a half years later, I would be standing in front of this stadium itself."
The new stadium "shows that we have not only recovered but we have renewed ourselves and our commitment to be world class in everything we do," said Cowen.
Baseball head coach Rick Jones said that Friday's festivities, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony and fireworks display before the first game, was "almost like a double-header. We wanted it to be a memorable fan experience.
"The first game, it happens only once."
The new stadium is named for Phil Greer, chair of the Board of Tulane, who spoke at Friday's dedication ceremony and was one of 16 stadium donors who tossed out first pitches in the opening game. A baseball fan and a fan of all Tulane sports, Greer said, "I am thrilled to be named on this stadium. But this is much more than a baseball stadium. This is a symbol of our recovery."
Inside the new stadium, even with all its high-tech gizmos from a giant video screen to the FieldTurf artificial surface on the playing field, a neighborhood atmosphere prevails, similar to the one Bobby Brown recalls. Nearby houses are visible and trees line the outfield fence.
And neighbors continue to be fans. For some neighbors, Tulane baseball is a family tradition.
Darren Duffy, who lives in the neighborhood and is a season-ticket holder, brought his family to the block party, where crawfish was served outside the stadium before Saturday's game.
Duffy said, "The new stadium is tremendously exciting and positive for the city. If we can come back and do this, anything can happen."
Joseph David Painter, a double Tulane alumnus and former Green Wave football player, drove in from Lake Charles, La., for the games. He summed up the weekend for many of the fans decked out in Tulane green apparel.
He said, "Tulane has been a leader in bringing the city back. I'm very proud."
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