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By Randy York
Friday is such an important day in Husker history that Nebraska’s Athletic Department will end the day with a fireworks display at Hawks Field. “It’s going to be a great night at the ballpark,” Nebraska Baseball Coach Darin Erstad said Wednesday. “It’s a new page in Husker history, and it’s going to be exciting and a lot of fun. The weather looks great, and everyone loves fireworks. Hopefully, we’ll have some fireworks of our own during the game.”
Friday presents a unique doubleheader with softball and baseball playing historic Big Ten Conference openers. Rhonda Revelle’s softball team plays the first half of the twin bill, hosting Northwestern in a 5 p.m. game at Bowlin Stadium. Next door, Erstad’s squad lifts off the launching pad at 6:35 p.m. with Nebraska’s first-ever Big Ten Conference baseball game against Illinois.
“Firsts”, of course, define important moments, and even though we’re not exactly talking a baby’s first steps, a teenager’s first kiss, that first day of college or that first day on the job, Erstad embraces this Big Ten opener in his own inimitable style. He will treat the historic game the same way he treats every game … with total respect.
“This game has such great history,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of great players and a lot of great managers that have instilled that in me. It’s hard to describe what Husker Nation is. It’s kind of similar. It’s just how you go about your business, how you prepare, how you run the bases, how you come on and off the field. Do you pick up trash in the dugout? Do you fix the little potholes on the dirt? You don’t chew up the grass. You do all the little things. You respect the field. You respect the opponent. You respect the game, and the game will reward you. I was fortunate to learn all this stuff, and it’s my job to pass it on to the next generation.”
Erstad appreciates everything Nebraska’s Marketing Department can do to fill the stands, but his total focus is on the moment. “I don’t look too far ahead,” he said. “It’s baseball. You play pitch to pitch. That’s how we approach everything … just get out there and have that blue-collar work mentality and get after it every game and see what happens.”
Nebraska’s Marketing Department is commemorating Friday as a special day, handing out “Big Red in the Big Ten” rally towels to the first 1,000 fans who attend each game. Nebraska’s first baseball pitch is 95 minutes after the softball game begins, but anyone holding a ticket to Friday’s baseball game will be admitted to the softball game for just $1. Play ball!
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