UT Baseball’s Opening Day

As I walked toward Disch-Falk Field for the first time on Friday afternoon, I could feel the excitement in the air as fans in burnt orange hung around the stadium as if there were nowhere else they would rather be. There were kids throwing baseballs around with their friends, parents eating and chatting about how good the team was going to be this year, and old-timers reminiscing about the Texas teams of years past.

I entered the stadium on an empty stomach, so I quickly grabbed a hot dog and water before heading down a tunnel toward the field. As I entered the stands, the first thing that struck me was how green the grass was. I had never seen grass that shade of green. I refocused my eyes, and realized it wasn’t grass at all. Was I actually staring at AstroTurf?

There was a seat behind an older gentleman on the first base side, so I sat down and took out my notepad and pen to get ready for the opening pitch. I was minding my own business, taking it all in (including my hot dog, which was very tasty), when the man in front of me started jabbing with the guy a few seats to his right about how the AstroTurf lasts 10 years. The other man felt that AstroTurf didn’t belong in baseball, and he let the older gentleman know about it. Obviously a longtime Longhorn fan, the older gentleman quickly corrected the other fan and said that it belonged in Texas baseball. All I could think of was a way out of this brewing situation. Was I actually about to witness a fight in my first five minutes of my first Texas baseball game? What a first impression!

A fan to my right, who was becoming increasingly interested in this conversation, added his two cents, stating he felt the turf was an advantage for Texas because other teams weren’t used to it. This fan’s two-year-old son was decked out from head to toe in UT sweats with a UT hat and shoes that had baseball stitching on them. The child’s outfit, coupled with the somewhat heated exchange, helped me quickly realize how serious Texas baseball fans are about their sport. At that point, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.

As the Longhorns took the field in the bottom of the first inning, the stands came to life. Fans yelling and cheering with the excitement of a kid receiving a Christmas gift he had been wanting since summer. It was baseball time!

Texas showed their ability offensively and defensively with several great plays in the field along with some timely hitting. Jordan Danks made what could be the catch of the year, in only the first game. On a deep fly ball to left center, Danks turned and raced toward the wall at a full sprint. At the last second, he dove horizontally, catching the ball and landing on the warning track. The catch forced the runner on first to go back to first, saving a potential run. It was one of the most impressive defensive plays I have seen in a long time.

Everyone knows how good Danks is, but I was curious how the underclassmen were going to perform under the pressure of playing college baseball. Kevin Keyes, freshman left fielder, was especially impressive at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a double in his first collegiate start and 2 for 3 with three runs scored in the second game on Saturday. Sophomore Brandon Belt was the star of the show in game two, as he went 4 for 5 with two doubles and scored four runs. Danks and Kyle Russell were quietly productive, logging several hits apiece during the series. Russell hit his first dinger of the season – and the first for the Horns – in the second game to left center, and I am quite sure there will be more to come from him throughout the season.

The Longhorn pitchers were equally impressive. Opening day starter, Austin Wood, had a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the fifth inning. Brandon Workman, a freshman from Bowie, Texas, came on in relief and pitched two no-hit innings in his first college appearance. Freshman Cole Green started game two and only gave up one run in his four innings pitched as another freshman Chance Ruffin closed the game out with a three-inning save.

Texas swept the series in dominating fashion and gave the fans much to cheer about and hope for this season. With the consistency of the upperclassmen and the obvious ability of the youngsters, it wouldn’t surprise me if UT fans were quite happy come postseason time.

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jordan danks, kevin keyes, kyle russell

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