With SEC baseball kicking off this weekend, Ole Miss is again reminded of why games at Swayze mark the best time of the year. But what truly sets Rebel baseball apart from other schools are the undying traditions.
Ole Miss baseball transcends generations, and brings fans together for a common purpose. Students, young and old, join together as they adhere to the traditions fans have known their whole lives. The timeless traditions of baseball at Swayze, whether it be the ceremonial outfield showers or the interactive scoreboard activities, ensure everyone participates in an experience unlike any other SEC school.
In most parts of the country, collegiate baseball is not particularly popular among spectators. But in Mississippi, a state where there are limited professional baseball teams, Ole Miss baseball takes center stage.
Because of the traditions Oxonians have practiced for generations, Ole Miss baseball, on average, draws in even larger crowds than the school’s basketball games. In 2015, The Rebels finished No. 2 in the nation for average attendance, with 8,066 fans typically packing the stands.
About 2,000 of those fans congregate in the right field student section – a rowdy, BYOB event that combines the feel of a fraternity field party with the timeless game of baseball. Right field is the best place in America to watch a college baseball game.
Before each season starts, students line Swayze field’s outer fence, eager to race to lock down a spot for their lawn chair in the outfield section. Spots are saved for the entire season, so securing the right seat is essential. As the university’s employees open the floodgates, students pour in, tearing down posts and chain-link fence sections along the way. Students spring for right field in an avalanche of excitement, folding chairs and chain locks in hand.
But right field watchers beware of beer showers. Any time a Rebel hits a homerun, everyone in the student section suddenly finds themselves on the receiving end of a cheap beer downpour. There’s a reason right field is on most Ole Miss bucket lists. The beer showers are an experience all their own.
Aside from all the shenanigans in right field, Ole Miss baseball games have plenty of interactive elements to keep fans entertained and engaged. During the game, fans have the opportunity to jeer at opposing outfielders, participate in on-field games and compete to make it on the jumbotron.
The athletics department also gives patrons the chance to get involved with the athletes. Once the outfielders are finished warming up before each inning, the center fielder will throw the ball into right field for a student to “guard” while the Rebels are at bat. “Guarding” the ball means fans get to cover the ball in creative doodles and writings. At the end of the inning, the fan “guarding” the ball will hurl the ball back to the Rebel outfielders.
A little later, between the top and bottom of the fifth inning, fans set aside their drinks to participate in the ceremonial “Love is Gone” dance. The baseball team gathers at the top rail of the dougout while pumping their fists to the beat as fans follow suit. The entire stadium follows along as David Guetta’s dance anthem booms through the Swayze speakers. Try finding that anywhere else in the nation.