Fans gathered at East Tennessee State University’s Thomas Stadium will remember, for a while at least, April 9, 2013, when the sun was shining, the temperatures hovered around 80 degrees and the words “Sold Out” were posted on ticket office windows for the first time for Tuesday night’s game against the University of Tennessee Volunteers.
Around 3:30 p.m. people began setting up camp in the grassy area at the end of the gravel parking lot and were already playing a couple of rounds of corn hole. Some ETSU students were lining up around the exterior of the stadium camping out for tickets, as ETSU baseball players one by one entered the stadium.
Brandon Hudson, ETSU athletics ticket manager, said he had received numerous calls Monday and Tuesday inquiring about game tickets, and was even on hand to let some eager fans wanting to buy tickets that afternoon know that there weren’t any left.
“It’s an exciting day. It’s our first sellout here at Thomas Stadium,” Hudson said. “We started pre-selling very early. The reserved seating was out yesterday. Today the standing room only tickets sold out probably about 10:30 or 11 this morning. We originally planned on having some out here, but ... folks kept coming to the office and we want to take care of our fans, so demand exceeded the supply.”
He said press releases to fans, season ticketholders, email and texting blasts, as well as online postings were sent out to try to lure the local fan base to the stadium.
“We’re excited to have everyone out here tonight,” Hudson said. “It’s Tennessee, it’s the new stadium, it’s great weather out here at the stadium, so everybody just wants to get out of the house, enjoy springtime. What better way than a baseball game?”
And while the 1,000 reserved seats and standing room only tickets were gone, the first 180 ETSU students to walk into the gate near third base received a free ticket to Tuesday’s game.
First in line by that gate was ETSU junior Andrea Allison, who said she was eager to get a ticket so she would be able to watch her boyfriend, ETSU center fielder Andrew Green, play.
“We found out that the game was basically sold out and they’re only offering 180 student tickets, so it’s first come, first serve,” Allison said. “Usually when we come to games ... we don’t have to sit in a certain spot. Usually they’re pretty lenient about it, but this time it’s what seat you get is what seat you sit in. I wanted to make sure I was getting a ticket.”
A member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, Allison was also at Tuesday’s game to celebrate Greek Week at Thomas Stadium. She said the game was heavily publicized and that students living at University Edge, the apartment complex next to the stadium, were sent text messages, emails and tweets to get people to come out Tuesday.
Those gathered in the “Greek Week” section of the University Edge designated parking lot were decked out in their letters and playing some competitive rounds of corn hole, as others hung out in the back of trucks and talked before the start of the game.
Whitney Thomas, a member of Sigma Kappa sorority, said the festivities of Greek Week at the game was a great way to get everyone together.
“I think a lot of the Greeks want to hang out with each other, so I think that’s a big thing and the baseball games are a great way to just meet each other, hang out with each other and it’s a large enough space where we can all hang out together,” she said. “We don’t have football and basketball’s inside, so baseball gives us a good way to stay outside and hang out. I think that this is a very positive thing for ETSU.”
Inside the stadium, fans –— the majority of them sporting gold and blue colors — were making their way to their seats, carrying with them snacks from the concession stands and programs.
A special moment before the game was when the Boy Scounts and Cub Scouts ran onto the field to line up and salute the flag during the National Anthem. The Scouts were in attendance at Tuesday’s game to sell fundraiser tickets for their organization.
Michael White, associate athletic director of communications for ETSU, said having a sold out game against Tennessee was exciting for ETSU baseball, as well as the whole ETSU athletic program.
“We’re a Division I program. We enjoy playing Tennessee and we’ve had a lot of success against them in recent years, so for our players I think it’s just another game,” White said. “For the community, it’s the kind of game that gets people excited. It’s 80 degrees and beautiful and I think if you’ve ever had a good example of what baseball means to a community, tonight would be it.”