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Large Troy crowd expected to give Trojans ‘home field advantage’ in Pensacola

Published 9:10pm Monday, March 24, 2014

Special to The Messenger by Steve Barnes

PENSACOLA, Fla. – It is unsure which team will bat first when Alabama takes on Troy tonight, but there is little doubt there will be a feel of a Trojans’ home game.

Fewer than 150 mile separate Troy from Pensacola and it has always had a large contingent of Trojans.

On the diamond, Keith Bragg and Chuck Stanhope were standouts for Chase Riddle, with Stanhope spending a few seasons in the minor leagues and Bragg now a baseball coach at Pensacola High School.

In football, Steven Campbell, Demontray Carter, Lance Sasser, Antjuan Marsh and Lawrence Tynes each had success on the gridiron in Troy after finishing their prep careers in the area.

Even the Troy basketball team had pair of players on the roster last season from Pensacola State College. It is not limited to simply men either. Barbara Sherwood, Tammy Lowery, Jinni Frisbey and Tara Blackwell are all Pensacola natives. Lady Trojan basketball coach Chandra Rigby was hired from PSC.

There is even a satellite Troy campus near Pensacola Naval Air Station.

“We have always had a lot of support for Troy athletics in Pensacola,” former Trojan kicker, Greg Whibbs, said. “Pensacola is a great sports town with native Don Sutton in the baseball hall of fame, Emmitt Smith in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Derrick Brooks will be inducted into the hall this fall.”

Whibbs, who is a Pensacola native and now is an assistant in the Florida State’s Attorney’s Office, will have a special sense of pride tonight. His alma mater will be playing at the complex named for his grandfather, former mayor Vince Whibbs.

“It is going to be exciting, I am sure,” Whibbs said. “There will be a lot of people yelling “Roll Tide!” but there will be more Trojans there who have ties to the University. It will be cool to hear the fans getting after one another.”

The game seems to be an interesting match as well. Alabama comes in 15-8 (3-3 in the Southeastern Conference), while Troy is 14-10 (3-2 in the Sun Belt). The Crimson Tide dropped 2-of-3 to Arkansas over the weekend, the Trojans took 2-of-3 from Louisiana-Monroe.

“We are extremely excited to have a pair of programs at this level play here,” Jason Libbert, head event coordinator for the Pensacola Sports Association said. “The teams can get exposure that is going to help them in recruiting our area.”

Alabama already features a pair of Pensacola players, Wade Wass and Austin Smith. For the Trojans, senior Austin Sullivan is from nearby Mary Esther, Robert Price from Niceville and Peyton Fuller from just across the state line in Fairhope.

“This is the second Division I game we’ve had here at Bayfront Stadium,” Libbert said. “Three weeks ago we had Florida play Southern Miss and now we get to follow that with two more great teams.”

There is another game scheduled in the preseason at the park that rests on the bank of Pensacola Bay. Thursday, the Pensacola Blue Wahoo will host its parent team, the Cincinnati Reds at the picturesque park. In 2012, the first year of the complex, the stadium was named ballpark of the year by Baseballparks.com.

Along with a state of the art video board, the park also features a berm for fans to enjoy the game from beyond the fence in right field. Over the left-field wall, it is a different story. Much like the park in San Francisco, batters who belt a ball well enough can have it land in the bay.

According to Libbert, only about 600 standing-room tickets remain as the 5,038-seat venue has be sold out for the game.

The game can be seen on Cox Sports Television.

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