Wednesday, Feb 12 2014 06:00 AM

The Roadrunner Connection: Celebrating baseball season's opening day, 2014

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Corey Costelloe

The Roadrunners open another baseball season this week, their sixth in the short history of the program that first took the field in the Spring of 2009.

In such a short time the program has boasted 12 MLB Draft picks, two very successful seasons, one conference championship and this season a vote to repeat as WAC champions by the coaches around the league. Bakersfield has tall orders to fill with a good chunk of their starting pitching having been drafted away or graduated while a few key position players also chose to turn professional off last season's record-setting squad.

But 2014 will hopefully prove to be historic. Gone is the "pool-play" format of the WAC Tournament, which cost Bakersfield a spot in the NCAA Regionals last year due to a 1-0 semifinals loss. This season's tournament in Mesa, Ariz., in May will feature a double-elimination format similar to that of the NCAA baseball tournament. Maybe fate will be on our side this time.

I'll once again be blessed with the opportunity to be behind the microphone for another broadcast slate of games. This is my 5th season with baseball, and my how the program has grown.

In just six years I've witnessed more or less an expansion franchise turn into a baseball contender. I've watched student-athletes improve, move on to bigger and better things while also watching a winning culture started from scratch. Kudos to head coach Bill Kernen, his associate head coach Jody Robinson and staff for making this thing into a winner.

I remember the first year, not too many wins, some bumps and bruises. A field that wasn't quite complete. Temporary bleachers, scoreboards mounted to dugouts, few sponsors on the outfield walls and lukewarm interest from the community.

Fast forward to this week's opener and there are actually seats, an ongoing project with more work to be done, but seats no less; a redesigned concourse and pathways, an event on the field, an outfield decorated with colorful sponsor ads and fans in the seats enjoying the highest level of amateur baseball available all at a great value.

Milwaukee will be the first opponent in 2014 at Hardt Field starting this Friday through Sunday. While they don't have the name-grabbing marquee-value that Nebraska, USC and Cal State Fullerton had during last season's opening weekend, they're still plenty good. This was a team that won the Horizon League championship last season and was in the NCAA Tournament, Baseball America also selected them to win the title again. So, if you're ready for competitive baseball like I'm sure the student-athletes from Milwaukee are ready for California sunshine, join us this weekend.

There's nothing like an opening day. We'll throw the first pitch at 3 p.m. on Friday, so leaving work a little early might be required.

When I was in Chicago a few summers back I noticed how the work week stopped for a Friday day game at Wrigley Field; hopefully we can get you to do the same for a Friday opener at Hardt Field. We don't have the ivy, but I'm sure we'll beat the Chicago weather this time of year.

COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University, Bakersfield.

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