Back in February, I wrote a post about the brand-spanking new ball park at Louisiana Tech. In that post, I waxed poetic about the changes to the stadium and how nice it would be to finally see Tech play a true “Home” game for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. I covered some of the new amenities and included some cool slider “before and after” pics.
The crux of the article was the the new and improved J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park kicks ass. And boy was that a hot taek at the time! I mean, seriously. A brand new ball park with 21st Century amenities built in the same on-campus location that Tech fans have known and loved for years? Yeah… really going out on limb with that one.
But, like all of my pseudo-journalism… like all of my previous and mostly mediocre attempts to cover Tech sports on this here blog… I forgot to include the most important factor that makes the Love Shack so damn special: the team, the crowds, and the pure magic that can happen on a baseball diamond.
To be fair to myself, the Bulldogs hadn’t taken the turf at the Love Shack when I wrote that article. There’s only so much you can glean from one session of batting practice!
And let me tell you, although the stadium looks phenomenal on ESPN+…(CUSA.tv, this is your cue to get better or get lost), it’s something you have to see to believe.
The Little Old Place
And last weekend, I finally got the chance to see (and believe) the new Love Shack. I don’t need to tell you that it’s beautiful. I did that back in February, I tweeted it from the blue chairbacks last weekend, and I wrote it above, in this article.
Coming into that stadium on Friday night was surreal. As a student at Tech more years ago than I’d like to admit, the Love Shack was just kind of… there. It was a special place, sure. Students yelled at outfielders, rally trains came just on time, and Tech won more than they lost. But something was missing. The location was doing most of the work to make the Love Shack a cool place to watch a ball game.
The stadium itself…? Not so much. Want a drink or some popcorn? Head outside the stadium where you can hardly even hear the crowd, let alone see the action! Want to host a regional? Hope you’re ready to only have 400 tickets available to your own fans! Want to entice the good people of Ruston and North Louisiana to come out for a game? Good luck. And why was it so…. green? Whose decision was that?!
Fast-forward to 2021, and everything has changed. The stadium is now a HUGE part of the reason to come catch a game at Tech. The rally trains are still there–but now you can watch the Bulldogs get walk-off after walk-off from the comfort of a blue chairback (if you’re lucky enough to get one!), standing in line for concessions (brisket quesadilla, anyone?), from the left field “patio”, or from under the new scoreboard in right field. A wise man once said, “The New Love Shack Kicks Ass”, and oh boy does it!
There’s something to be said about the new facilities and what having this ball park will mean in the distant future. This new ballpark runs circles around our CUSA brethren, and the benefits will show up on the diamond in the next couple of years. When potential future Bulldogs see this park, and watch game videos from the CUSA Tourney, they will have to become Bulldogs. As the great Jim Robken used to say at Time Out For Tech, “I encourage you to look around and find the best school for you. But let’s make one thing clear… you’re coming to Tech!!” That’s what this ballpark says to me if I’m a top caliber high school recruit.
We Can Get Together
Last weekend, I got my first taste of what the New Love Shack can be. On Saturday, I watched the Bulldogs pull out not one, but TWO incredible comebacks against USM. If you followed our twitter feed on Saturday, or listened to our podcast(s) this week, you know how I feel about those games. But it’s worth stating here, too. Steele Netterville’s walk-off hit to cap off the incredible comeback in game one took over the “Best Sports Moment Evan Has Ever Seen Live” crown… for about six hours.
Then, Philip Matulia, with his glorious mane flowing in the wind, walks up to the plate to face the Mustard Buzzards’… starting shortstop….? You literally could not write what happened here into a movie. In the movie about the Bulldogs 2019-2021 experience, you couldn’t end it this way. Sure, the heroes come back to win the game, but you CAN’T do it in bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, down by one run, FULL COUNT. That’s WAY too cheesy. That script is getting sent back with a big ol’ red X through the final scene!
But the New Love Shack isn’t a movie set. It’s a real-life field of dreams for Tech fans. It’s a place where incredible things can happen. A place where the Bulldogs can do anything. Down 8-0 in the 5th inning of an elimination game? No sweat. Down 5-3 with two down in the bottom of the ninth… of another elimination game? Yawn.
What I witnessed on Saturday has enshrined the new Love Shack not just as my favorite college ballpark or my favorite place to watch a baseball game… It might be my favorite stadium in the world. When insane moments happen, it changes your perception of a place.
The new Love Shack is a place where pure pandemonium is on the cusp of breaking loose at any moment. Where deafening cheers are heard, voices are lost, and hearts are filled with joy. It’s a place where Tech has already won some incredibly momentous games in its inaugural season…. and we’re not done yet.
It’s a Funky Old Shack…
Again, the editor is sending back the script here… But those two walk-off wins? They won you a spot in the CUSA title game…
But all season, we’ve heard that Tech is a fringe hosting team. And last Saturday, for the first time all season I felt like the magic run was over. I figured we’d head to Starkville, or Oxford, or Austin to play our playoff baseball as one of the 17th-32nd best teams in the nation. A great honor, but not the fitting end to the movie.
But the funky old Shack wasn’t done… Those two walk-off wins on perhaps the greatest day in Louisiana Tech baseball history clinched EVEN MORE baseball in Ruston this year. That’s right: WE ARE HOSTING A GOD DAMN NCAA REGIONAL THIS WEEKEND!
…And I Gotta Get Back
So pile in your cars, fire up the grill, and get your ass to Ruston. I don’t need to tell you how huge this is for our program; how much it means to the players, the university, and the community. That’s all been done by real journalists in the past week.
What I’m going to tell you is that the Love Shack’s voodoo magic ain’t done yet. Tonight, the Bulldogs take the field against the Bronc
os from Rider University, and the crowd will be absolutely BUZZING. In fact, tickets were so hard to get for this game, gtpdd will be relegated to the Right Field Berm. And the thing is, I don’t give a crap. Because when the pandemonium breaks loose, I have to be there. The Love Shack is calling and I must go.
See everyone tonight at the Shack. Don’t you know, pump it up!