With the 2nd-ranked Tennessee baseball team hosting an NCAA Super Regional for the first time since 2005, I began to think about when I was doing SEC Baseball games in the early 1990s. That was so much fun. As you well know, I have been a long-time baseball fan and I especially enjoy college baseball. When I got a chance to handle play-by-play for SEC games in the spring of 1991, I was absolutely thrilled beyond belief. I had just come off a grueling college basketball schedule that ended in March and, after a quick trip to the beach, I was more than ready to work some baseball games.
I can't remember every game I did but there are a few that stand out. Like the time I took my son Davey with me to Knoxville for a Tennessee game when Rod Delmonico was coaching the Volunteers.
Tennessee had a very successful program back then and, while I don't remember much about the game itself, I do remember when members of the Tennessee Sports Information Department came into the booth between innings to tell me that my son had eaten at least a dozen hot dogs in the hospitality area. They didn't care if he ate them, but they were concerned that he would be sick from eating that many.
There was also the time I did a doubleheader at Auburn between the Tigers and Arkansas. It was still in the heart of spring time and I had been battling allergies for several days. Again, just before the start of the ball game I started sneezing uncontrollably and I took some medication that stopped the sneezing but left me with a stuffy, runny nose. I did a terrible job on the game and was so glad when the game ended. Thankfully, the Jefferson-Pilot company that was producing the games back then understood.
I once did a doubleheader at Vanderbilt as the Commodores hosted Alabama. Former UTC head coach and long-time college assistant coach "Brother" Bill Oliver's son was playing for the Crimson Tide that day and Coach Oliver was on hand. We had a great visit before the game as well as afterwards.
One of my fondest memories ever came when I traveled to Starkville, Mississippi to broadcast a doubleheader between Mississippi State and LSU. The series was for first place in the SEC standings and we got to Dudy Noble Field several hours before game one began. We took a camera crew to the famous "Left Field Lounge" and shot pre-game intros as well as eating like pigs. The food there was out of this world and prepared by Bulldog fans in an area that has been deemed the greatest tailgating experience for any sport, anywhere. I totally agree. Fans had parked old pick up trucks and campers beyond the outfield fence, stretching from foul line to foul line and every single one of them had prepared meals fit for a king, which is just what they made me feel like.
After our visit to the "Left Field Lounge," we watched batting practice outside the batting cage that had been set up at home plate. LSU coach Skip Bertman and Bulldog coach Ron Polk stood and talked baseball with me for what seemed like an eternity but was actually about 20 minutes. I never wanted it to end. As the game began, I looked out at the crowd in excess of 15,000 fans and noticed a familiar face sitting in the seats behind home plate. It was comedian Jerry Clower, one of the most famous alums from Mississippi State. He was waving to me because we had been friends for several years and I invited him to come up to the booth. He shared the mics with my partner George Plaster and me for several innings and it was some of the most enjoyable moments of my career.
As the 2021 Tennessee Volunteers get set to face LSU on Saturday in game one of the Super Regional at Lindsay Nelson Stadium, I'm reminded just how much fun going to a college baseball game can be. That hasn't changed at all in the 30 years since I was doing SEC Baseball on television. Go Vols!
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com