The 2011 Big East-Big Ten Baseball Challenge is in full swing, and fans from schools in both conferences are lapping up all the baseball and sunshine the state can offer.
Saturday started off with a triple header at Jack Russell Stadium and ended with a nightcap at Bright House Field.
In between there was a whole lot of baseball played in Clearwater on Saturday, and many fans of the participating teams made the pilgrimage to Pinellas County from all points on the map.
“We left the ice castles of Greenwich (Connecticut) for the gorgeous Florida sunshine,” said Dani Mazzilli, mother of UConn infielder LJ Mazzilli, at Jack Russell Stadium.
Meanwhile Jan, the wife of Minnesota head coach John Anderson, her daughter Erin and their friends from Denver enjoyed the sunshine, but in a different way.
“Our friends got married on Clearwater beach yesterday,” they said matter-of-factly. “They had been planning to get married, and figured while they were down here, they might as well go ahead and do it.”
While the Huskies were preparing to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at the former Phillies stadium, down Drew Street there was a doubleheader taking place at the new Phillies spring home.
In the first game at Bright House Field, the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 2-0 in a game that took just two hours to play.
But that speedy game time didn’t prevent the Cardinals fans from enjoying themselves.
“This is awesome, the weather is great… of course we went to the beach yesterday,” said Paula Haynes, mother of Louisville outfielder Drew Haynes, after her boy's team won.
And over at the Tiki Deck, members of the Louisville alumni association enjoyed a few libations while recovering from an alumni/team party the night before.
“We came down here to get some sun and watch some baseball,” said Ernest Brooks, a New York investment banker. “Anytime I can come down here, hang out and watch Cards baseball, I’m happy.”
By far the most entertaining fans had to be the nine Louisville frat brothers who drove 14 hours from campus to watch their beloved Cardinals.
Known as the Bullpen Boozers, they sat behind the Cards’ dugout and heckled the opposing team the entire game.
Sleep was low on the Tau Kappa Epsilon members’ priority list, while partying, girls and cheering on the Cards were right at the top.
“God bless America, and God bless our Cards!” is the group’s slogan, according to unofficial spokesman Tyler Whitchurch.
“Do you know where we can find a good place to party around here?” he added.