By Steve Barnes
PENSACOLA, Fla. — When Troy’s baseball team walked to the top of the tunnel at Pensacola’s Bayfront Stadium, each player had the same look — his eyes were as big as baseballs.
The Trojans and Alabama met Tuesday at the home ballpark of Pensacola’s Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. It came just four days before the Reds play an exhibition game against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and the field was in pristine condition.
“This is an outstanding experience, I’ve never seen such a nice park,” Troy pitcher Tanner Hicks said. “The field and the backdrop makes me feel like we are in a major-league stadium.”
The evening was even better.
Alabama took the field against the Trojans on a perfect Gulf Coast night on the bank of Pensacola Bay. A gentle 66 degrees with soft breezes off the bay. Even better than the weather was the Troy turnout.
“We expect a great amount of fans tonight,” Steve Timberlake, president of the Pensacola Bay Area Troy Alumni and Friends, said. “Pensacola is a great market for Troy.”
The organization typically funds eight scholarships a year from Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties in the Florida panhandle each year. Along with that, the group contributes $2,000 a year to the Troy University Foundation.
Several Troy alumni and fans gathered at Nick’s Boathouse, a restaurant neighboring the Bayfront Stadium, prior to the game.
The crowd included Chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., and athletic director John Hartwell.
As friendly as the party was, Troy expected something else on the field. After all, the Trojans eliminated Alabama from the NCAA Tallahassee Regional last year.
“With the hype of last year’s 9-8 win, it will be fun,” Hicks said. “We’d like our games with Alabama to become a rivalry.”
Judging from Tuesday, it has.