Home SPORTS Take Me Uptown to the Ball Game

Take Me Uptown to the Ball Game


A Tulane tradition is revived

nol_apr08_final_medres_page_34_image_0001.jpgAn amazing thing has happened in Uptown New Orleans: A weekend day to be spent in the sunshine is available for $15 a seat at Tulane University’s newly refurbished Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, a sports value that can’t be beat.

Tulane’s new baseball stadium is gorgeous, something the city of New Orleans, Uptown and the school can all be proud of. It is a resuscitation of a quintessentially Uptown experience, hitting the junction of Calhoun and Claiborne, not far from Broadway, for an afternoon or twilight event that offers something for everyone, ideally in the midst of a beautiful blue-sky expanse and a smattering of white cloud puffs. The location allows for the pre-game beer or lunch at a neighborhood joint or restaurant. Former Tulane headquarters, Norby’s, is long gone, but the old standbys of Franky & Johnny’s, Bruno’s, Phillip’s, Robert’s and others live on. Baseball is the perfect outing for the family, since the pace happily allows for plenty of intervals for conversation. In fact, you don’t even have to be a baseball fan to enjoy a lovely day running into old friends there.

This experience is something that has been missing from New Orleans since the demise of Tulane Stadium. Yet it seems entirely natural, like one form of life occupying and resuming the niche left by some now-extinct form. Turchin seats a shade over 5,000 fans, and the quality of the seating and the structure itself are excellent. Indeed, the preeminent college baseball program in the state, LSU, had better take stock, because its rival to the southeast has developed a nationally recognized Coach of the Year award winner in Rick Jones, built a top 10 program and now has a stadium that any college, and many minor league pro teams, would be proud of.

The bleachers are the place to really see—and hear—the full breadth of what baseball fans can offer. The difference in LSU and Tulane fans is notable. LSU fans definitely have higher expectations, naturally with their slew of past awards and championships, yet Tulane fans can still be more critical. To a Tulane fan, the fact that their team left the SEC four decades ago is discussed as though it just happened yesterday. Games from the 1970s and players from the 1940s are as likely to be spoken of in Turchin as anywhere outside of a Yankees old-timers game during spring training.

Parking can be an issue and one of the lots across the street may be the best, quickest option if one is to avoid a City of New Orleans ticket. On the stadium’s opening day, meter maids were leaving their little orange love notes indicating cash owed upon delivery everywhere left and right. One day when the epilogue of the great city of New Orleans is written, some historian will have to explain why it is that the town’s burgermeisters and apparatchiks have always found ways to discourage promising economic and cultural engines so beneficial to neighborhoods and the town as a whole. The stadium offers a perfect opportunity to help this Carrollton-Uptown corridor recover and grow, offering a high-quality baseball program and the sort of venue that makes living nearby attractive for families and young professionals, and its success should be encouraged.

College baseball is also the last refuge of the once great Tulane-LSU rivalry. Once exclusively reserved for football, but diminished due to competitiveness issues—to put it politely—the heat of the contest has flared up again on the diamond. The teams have been playing since 1893, and while LSU holds the series lead 159-123-3 in all that time, since the 1990s and into this past March, Tulane has held a slight 108 edge, including a sweep last year. LSU will be returning to Turchin on April 22, and that will likely be one of the toughest and most sought-after tickets of the 2008 New Orleans sports season. Tulane, 13-6 through mid-March, has been led by outfielder Warren McFadden (batting .346), catcher Jared Dyer (batting .339), and third baseman Rob Segedin (batting .333, the team RBI leaders), center fielder Aja Barto (leads the team in stolen bases), and Anthony Scelfo (a two-sport player). As usual, Tulane’s head coach, Rick Jones, has his team primed for its usual residence among the nation’s top 25 programs: A top 10 finish is always possible, and hopefully a run at a conference title and an NCAA tournament berth will arise. For local sports fans it cannot get better than reviving a great Uptown tradition while enjoying some top-notch collegiate baseball on a beautiful day with family and friends in New Orleans’ newest sports arena.