Let’s be honest—the last nine months of Ole Miss sports have sucked.
It started last April when some asshole found the password to Laremy Tunsil’s social accounts, simultaneously sinking his draft stock and pushing the reset button on the four-year NCAA investigation that had all but wrapped up. That newly invigorated witch hunt—which still has no end in sight—not only crippled the Rebels’ 2017 recruiting class, but almost certainly scared off potential assistant coaches during the one offseason that Hugh Freeze was finally willing to make changes to his staff. And the football season that was supposed to make us temporarily forget that Mark Emmert’s henchmen were rummaging through Freeze’s underwear drawer? A 5-7, bowl-less disaster that included the Rebels blowing three-score leads to FSU and Bama, Chad Kelly blowing out his knee and State blowing out the Egg Bowl in Oxford. Basketball has brought little reprieve, as Andy Kennedy’s team is scuffling through an inconsistent season that’s unlikely to end with a Dance.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, the inventor of the red Solo Cup passed away in December.
Yes, it’s been a rough stretch, which is why now, perhaps more so than any time in recent memory, Ole Miss fans are really fucking ready for baseball season. The Diamond Rebs, heavy with returning talent and billowed by the country’s No. 1 recruiting class, carry the promise of spring showers to the arid desertscape of Ole Miss athletics.
Warm spring afternoons, beer showers, “Throw it in the dirt!”, fifth-inning cup races, Love is Gone gesticulations and heated debates with your buddy about whether Bianco should or shouldn’t pull the damn starter next inning—it’s all just around the corner. The season begins this weekend with a home stand against No. 10 ECU and former Rebel assistant Cliff Godwin, who guided the Pirates to the cusp of the College World Series in his first year at the helm. It’ll be an early test for an Ole Miss team ranked as high as No. 8 in the country by Perfect Game.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that baseball season is yet another extension of Rebel fans’ long, weary trudge. Finding replacements for the likes of J.B. Woodman, Brady Bramlett and Wyatt Short will be no easy task, and the reliance on freshmen (there could be as many as three in the opening-day lineup) is a recipe for inconsistency. It may be that Mike Bianco’s young team is still a year away from competing with the conference’s big boys.
Still, even an up-and-down baseball season—so long as it’s accompanied by warm days at the ball park and copious amounts of cold beer—will be a welcome reprieve from talk of NCAA sanctions and the football program’s recruiting misses.
I’m gonna leave work early this Friday. I’m gonna grab a six pack on my way home, set up a Grove chair in the middle of my tiny D.C. basement apartment, flip on WatchESPN and crack open a brew as the Rebel starter winds up for the first pitch of the 2017 season. And for that moment, at least, the world of Ole Miss athletics will be perfect.