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Polk's influence on college game is unmatched

By By Marty Stamper / sports columnist
June 1, 2003
STARKVILLE When Ron Polk first came to Mississippi State as head baseball coach in 1976, the game didn't attract a whole lot of interest.
Heck, even against SEC competition, you could usually drive your vehicle into the Left Field Lounge an inning or two after the game had started. Many times you could still park at the outfield fence.
The old wooden bleachers at Dudy Noble Field were sheer torture on your rear end in the doubleheaders Southeastern Conference teams used to play on Saturdays. Yet more and more people began to come.
Polk, who inherited the remnants of a team that had gone 16-24 in 1975, began to turn the program around, going 28-17 in his first year.
By 1979, when State went 48-12 and advanced to the College World Series, the torture on your rear was equaled by the pain inflicted on your back as fans crowded the home games and sat packed tighter than sardines in a can, or so it felt.
Now, when you come to Dudy Noble, you can sit in luxury in the chairback seats. Some of the luckier folks even have skyboxes.
Even those who choose to sit in the bleachers have it much better than it used to be. I can still remember going into the tiny restroom in 1978 and standing next to Arizona head coach Jerry Kindall. Even the restrooms and concession stands are much better today.
And even more fans come as evidenced by the line from the front gate halfway up the hill at Humphrey Coliseum an hour and a half before MSU squared off with North Carolina Saturday afternoon.
And for all that, you can thank Ronald G. Polk. The G stands for getting the job done.
Polk's influence has filtered down to the high school level in Mississippi as well. Just see the facilities many high schools now have.
Bob Schubert, president of Mississippi's Dizzy Dean program, was made aware of that last summer as Starkville hosted the Dizzy Dean High School World Series. Eight area fields were used.
In Friday's 10-4 opening round win over Middle Tennessee, it didn't take long to see that the Blue Raiders were in over their heads.
The Tennessee squad plays its home games at Reese Smith Field, which seats 2,600. The stands end before the dugouts do.
At Dudy Noble Friday, 10,264 fans, mostly rooting on their Bulldogs, encircled the playing field.
By the time State scored four runs in the first inning and five more in the fifth, MTSU had committed three of its four errors and was looking at a 10-1 deficit.
MTSU head coach Steve Peterson knew his team was in big trouble.
Peterson's not the first coach to say that after his team played at game at MSU. He won't be the last.
For at State, baseball matters.