With three days remaining in the most bizarre and unsuccessful season in recent Tulane baseball history, the seats at Turchin Stadium didn’t look much different.
A sparse crowd of a few hundred fans sat quietly as the game’s opening pitch whizzed by, marking the onset of yet another Green Wave (21-29) loss, this time a 9-1 defeat to Florida International (36-16) to open Tulane’s final weekend of Conference USA play after two decades in the league.
This wasn’t the type of night this stadium was built for. When the Green Wave chose to bulldoze the old version of the stadium in 2005 to invest in a complete overhaul at the same site, the program was coming off its second College World Series appearance in five years and spent the majority of the season as the nation’s No. 1 team.
Hurricane Katrina pushed the new ballpark’s unveiling to 2008, which would mark the last year Tulane would reach the NCAA Tournament.
“When we first built it, I thought 5,000 seats would actually be a little too small,” season ticket holder Tim Sweeney said. “I was hoping for 7,500. But, now, when you look around the place is a ghost town.”
The park built to host regionals and super regionals, instead hosted the program’s first meaningless regular-season game (without an opportunity to effect any postseason implication) since 1975 on Thursday night. And despite Tulane clinching its first losing season in 21 years after being swept last weekend by UAB — scoring two total runs in three games — the people who call Turchin Stadium a second home between February and May milled about the walkways and sipped on cold beers.
But there’s little doubt the past six seasons, and particularly this year, have taken its toll.
“Yeah, back in 2004 and 2005 we used to have a crew of about six or seven guys selling stuff out here and the only time we do that now is when they play LSU,” said C.J. Delise, who has walked the aisles selling beer and peanuts at Tulane games for 18 years.
“I see a lot of same faces now. There are some real diehards who are here and are truly loyal people.
“When the team was great, the bandwagoners came out and the place was filled up, but for the most part all we see now are the truly loyal people, who come out no matter what.”
But even those loyal patrons are restless. Season ticket holder Robert Segari said he’s often questioned the value of his $300 tickets down the first base line, despite prices remaining stagnant since the rebuild in 2008.
“I want to say I’m always going to support them, but it’s getting tough,” Segari said.
For the first time in 21 years, the coaching situation is in limbo. Longtime manager Rick Jones was forced to leave the team for the remainder of the season on March 21 because of cardiovascular and blood pressure issues.
He was replaced by interim manager Jake Gautreau for the final two months as a youthful Green Wave roster, which features seven freshman starters on Thursday, struggled to gain its footing.
Several fans offered various opinions on what they’d like to see for the future varying between hoping Jones returns for the final year of his contract, Gautreau being given the job outright or a complete shake up on the bench.
Regardless of what the future holds, the support in Turchin Stadium is a significant topic entering the offseason.