By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Bart Wood, general manager of The Little Dooey, a popular barbecue restaurant near Mississippi State University’s campus, is geared up for the weekend.
Thousands of baseball fans will be flocking to MSU and Starkville, where they’ll spends thousands of dollars at area hotels, restaurants and shops.
“We’re treating this like an SEC football weekend,” Wood said.
All the excitement is generated by MSU hosting an NCAA baseball regional tournament for the first time in 10 years.
An influx of Bulldog fans, as well as fans of the other three teams – Central Arkansas, Mercer and South Alabama – will stream into the area.
“The games are stretched out, and we’ll get good crowds,” Wood said. “They’ll be coming in waves.”
At the Microtel Inn, sales director Shana Walker is having to turn away guests because, like other hotels and motels in Starkville, there are no rooms available. All 73 rooms at the Microtel are reserved, but it’s not all due to the regional tournament.
“We were almost completely booked April 25 because we also have the FFA convention coming in,” Walker said. A few slots were available for the weekend but were taken quickly.
The hotel’s sister property, a Hampton Inn in West Point, also is completely booked.
Joe Dier, MSU’s media relations director for baseball, said the campus and city are abuzz about the tournament.
“It will be very similar to Super Bulldog Weekend (in April), where we have the hotels, restaurants, parking lots and roads filled with people,” he said. “We had 14,500 for the baseball game that Saturday, and we’re expecting similar numbers this weekend.”
And why not? State holds the top 10-largest on-campus college baseball attendance records.
The crowd of 11,496 people who saw the Bulldogs beat Florida State in the Starkville regional in 1990 set the NCAA regional single-game record.
And in 2007, when it hosted an NCAA super regional, MSU posted the two largest super regional crowds.
“It’s been a long time since we hosted a regional, which is something we did regularly through 2003,” Dier said, noting MSU is hosting for the 12th time. “I think we’re back in the regional hosting business.”
That’s perfectly fine with The Little Dooey’s Wood, who said he expected fans to start trickling into town Wednesday evening.
“You take this time of year when we don’t have as many students here and have something like this happen – we’ll be getting an early start and staying late,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Don O’Bannon, owner of Oby’s, a popular sandwich shop, said the atmosphere around campus and the city should be as good as it’s ever been.
“It’s been so long – people got used to hosting regionals here, and they’re starved to have one again,” he said. “It’s going to be big, and it’ll be great to see all the alumni and fans come back to town.”