They could be a couple of the greatest words in all of sports…’Opening Day.’ Although fairly generic, the term is most always used in connection with baseball season. Football rarely uses the term, I never see it in relation to basketball or soccer, nope ‘opening day’ has for the most-part become part of baseball vernacular.
So those two lovely words mean one thing, this weekend is ‘opening day’ of CSU Bakersfield baseball, or even ‘opening weekend’ considering we have three games in three days at the newly-upgraded Hardt Field.
I know what you’re thinking “baseball? Didn’t it just snow last week?” Yes and yes is the correct answer. But that’s the beauty of college baseball, while many baseball fans believe spring training is the beginning of the sport’s season, it’s actually already underway across hundreds of college baseball diamonds in America by that time. We’re playing games while the millionaires and big leaguers are still trying to recover from an off-season of over-indulgence as they get ready to report to camp.
The start of this season for CSUB is bigger than ever. Although we’ve been around for just five short seasons, this program has been on the cusp of earning a berth in the NCAA Regionals for a few seasons now, and with their new affiliation with the Western Athletic Conference, that dream is closer than ever. Recent coaches polls have us selected to finish 5th in the conference, which actually wouldn’t put us in a bad spot come the conference tournament in May, but of course we’d rather take the number-one spot.
Meanwhile a few other college baseball blogs have us finishing anywhere from 2nd to 8th in the conference prompting head coach Bill Kernen to tell the media a few weeks ago “if we finish eighth, I’ll fire myself.” When baseball season rolls around the usually-artistic Bill Kernen doesn’t mince words.
He is right, his team is way too talented this season to finish 8th in the WAC, the ‘Runners will be competing for the top spot in the conference, I’m sure of it. With arguably the deepest pitching staff and bullpen in program history, he’ll be able to rely on upperclassmen starters and talented middle relievers to keep runs off the board.
Couple that with an infield that retains everything up the middle from a season ago and a couple new talented pieces on the corners, this team is as experienced as they come. Then there is the outfield whose range and quickness would probably rival most defensive football backfields, if they weren’t playing baseball.
Needless to say I’m ready for opening day, ready for opening weekend for that matter. CSUB hosts Nebraska on Friday afternoon at 3 P.M., then hosts USC on Saturday at 2 P.M. then Cal State Fullerton Sunday at 2 as well. You can’t beat that lineup to open a newly-renovated ballpark and a season that means more than ever.
Hopefully I’m still writing about baseball in June when the NCAA Regionals roll around…guess that journey starts this weekend. See you at the ballpark.
COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University Bakersfield.