BRAD LOCKE: Passion for baseball runs deep at Mississippi State

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE
It was cold, windy and spitting rain here last Wednesday. Visions of baseball were not easily conjured up.
Unless you were downtown about 4:30 p.m. That’s when Dudy Gras 7.5 took place. It was a modest parade, but it was significant, because it means that as far as Mississippi State fans are concerned, baseball is here.
The season begins in less than two weeks, but those who take up residence behind the outfield wall at Dudy Noble Field already have their trucks set up. As you might know, these trucks are rigged with bleachers and grills and everything else a fan needs while watching a game.
But it’s not so much about the trucks and the food, it’s about the community that resides behind the outfield wall. The Left Field Lounge area has gained a well-earned reputation as a place where passion for MSU baseball runs deepest.
Former Bulldogs Ed Easley and Jeffrey Rea were co-grand marshals for the Dudy Gras parade, and they understand that passion.
left field lounge
“You go to every venue in the SEC, and you see so many different things, and everybody has extended their skyboxes and things of that sort. But nobody’s got a Left Field Lounge,” said Rea, MSU’s all-time hits leader.
Hardy Mitchell has been a Left Field Lounger since the mid-1980s. He worked for MSU back then as assistant athletics director for facilities and game operations, and he helped the outfield fan section become a little more organized.
So Mitchell understands as well as anyone the dynamic of Left Field Lounge. It’s like a community within the greater MSU fan community.
“Everybody knows everybody,” he said. “We have had the same people on either side of us for 25 years. So you get to know them. If you need a little baseball water or salt and pepper or extra hamburger patty or bun or baked beans or whatever, you share.”
Hobie Hobart, a local restaurateur, was sitting around with some friends eight years ago, and they were discussing MSU baseball. They decided something more needed to be done to promote the passionate fans.
So they organized a parade that starts at Rick’s American Cafe downtown and ends at Dudy Noble Field. That first parade didn’t go off because of sleet and rain, so the participants retired to Mugshots, “and (we) gave ourselves half-credit,” Hobart said.
Several of the rigged-out trucks were already in place at Dudy Noble before Wednesday’s parade, but it’s the spirit of the thing that matters.
Several years ago, Mitchell had a guest at his Left Field Lounge spot – Jim Kaat, the former Major League pitcher. Kaat was doing color commentary for ESPN on this particular weekend in the late ’80s.
“He was out there, and I was talking to him one night,” said Mitchell, “and he said, ‘I’ve been all over the world with the game of baseball, and this is a unique place in the world of sports.’ He said, ‘I’ve never seen anything else like it.’”
Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.