By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – There was no parade here Thursday night for Mississippi State’s most successful baseball team ever.
Who needs a march down the street when you’ve got Dudy Noble Field – the capitol building of Southeastern Conference baseball – for hosting a “Welcome Home Celebration.”
The Bulldogs, two days removed from a disappointing College World Series championship series loss to UCLA in Omaha, received an enthusiastic salute from their administration and an estimated 4,000 adoring fans, many who traveled to Nebraska to support their maroon-clad boys of spring and summer.
Banners proclaiming “2013 National Finalists” were displayed inside and outside the ballpark. Highlights from MSU’s 51-win season were played on the scoreboard screen, along with the team’s popular “Bench Mobb” rap video.
Jim Ellis, MSU’s radio voice, was the program’s host. Speakers included school president Mark Keenum, who was presented the CWS runner-up trophy by the team, athletics director Scott Stricklin, head coach John Cohen and Bulldog team captains Wes Rea and Kendall Graveman.
Thanking the fans
Rea, the sophomore first baseman who tweeted before the season MSU fans needed to make plans to go to Omaha, thanked the cowbell-clanging supporters.
“What we accomplished this year was because of y’all,” he said. “I want to say ‘Thank you’ to you guys.’’’
Cohen, a former Bulldogs player, saluted his players and the fans, too.
“The best recruiting tool we have at Mississippi State is, No. 1, these guys,” he said, pointing to his players. “No. 2, is you guys.”
Stricklin told the fans about calling Cohen prior to the season to see if the Bulldogs had a team that could make it to Omaha. Stricklin wanted to take his wife, a big tennis fan, to Wimbledon the same week of the CWS finals.
“John said, ‘Scott this is a pretty special team. I don’t know if I would purchase those tickets just yet,’’’ Stricklin said. “Next year, the last week of June, I’m going to be ready to go back to Omaha.”
MSU lost 8-0 to the Bruins in Game 2 of their best-of-three CWS championship series. UCLA won the opener, 3-1, on Monday at TD Ameritrade Park.