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Oct. 30, 2008

Columbia, S.C. –

Ray Tanner and Eric Hyman video-icon-blue.gif | Stadium Photos | Eric Hyman and Ray Tanner Photos

University of South Carolina Athletics Director Eric Hyman has announced the addition of 1,000 more permanent seats to the new South Carolina baseball stadium as a result of the high demand for tickets at the new facility. The new facility will house 6,400 permanent seats with standing room only tickets raising the capacity to approximately 9,000. Hyman and South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner met with the media on Thursday afternoon (October 30) to discuss the ongoing construction as well as fall practice. In addition, the Gamecocks announced that the season opening series with Duquesne will begin on Saturday, Feb. 21 to accommodate Gamecock fans planning to attend the season opener in the new ballpark.

Athletics Director Eric Hyman

Opening Statement
“We will service our customers and we will make sure they are taken care of properly, but there will be some kinks with the opening of a new stadium. We’re just going to have to work through some of them. We had a meeting yesterday about the stadium and there are some things that we are working on to honor our past. We will honor our past. Be patient with us. We have some ideas and some things that we are working on. It may not be ready for the first game. We don’t have a timeline set up, but I think that we have some fantastic concepts that I think that people in South Carolina will really enjoy. I think we have some good ideas and transferring the ideas to where they totally crystallize will take some time.”

(On a shuttle to the stadium for parking)
Right now there’s not going to be a fee for the shuttle. If we do it, it would be very, very minimal. It’s not a moneymaking proposition. It would just be to offset our costs.”

Head Coach Ray Tanner

“Two points to address from what Mr. Hyman said. The bleacher seats will go between the scoreboard and the foul pole. The series-opening weekend will now be Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I think the Saturday and Sunday games will be at 2 and the Monday game will be at noon. Those decisions were made to accommodate our fans. First game on a Saturday will give people more of an opportunity to come and we’re scheduled to play Arkansas in basketball that evening so it will be a bit of a celebration day and it will give our fans more of an opportunity to be here.”

(On the excitement of new stadium with the team and the program)
“It’s really been phenomenal for our players. We had our alumni in last weekend. I did three tours myself of the stadium with some of our former players. It’s a special situation. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and extra energy. Coach Holbrook is on the staff now in this beautiful stadium and we hope it equates to a few more wins this year. Our players are ecstatic about it. It’s a state-of-the-art facility in college baseball.”

(On fall practice)
We have three freshmen pitchers that I thought would make an impact and they didn’t disappoint. Probably Adam Westmoreland and Nolan Belcher, if they continue to do well in the preseason, it looks like they’re going to be rotation pitchers of some capacity. Matt Price, a young man from Sumter, was good as well. He’ll probably be somebody in the bullpen. We still have (Blake) Cooper up front, Sam Dyson up front. We look like we’re going to be a little deeper on the mound. Hopefully we’ll pitch a little bit better than a year ago.”

(On the health of the team)
“We’re starting to make progress. Curtis Johnson is back on the mound now. Jordan Costner threw this fall. Jay Brown is back on the mound. Brandon Miller is back. Steven Neff has been the slowest one to recover, but we’re getting a lot of people back that we didn’t have a year ago to go along with our new guys and our guys that did pitch. We’re pretty confident with our pitching staff. We’re yet to be proven, but we’ll be a little bit stingier than we were a year ago with giving up runs. We have to score some. DeAngelo Mack, Parker Bangs, and Drew Crisp had a really good fall. He seems to be healthy after back surgery. Some of the old guys have to do well and the newcomers have to perform.”

(On a possible starting lineup)
“I could speculate a little bit, and I’m not trying to be evasive in saying this. At first base we could have Parker Bangs or Jeffery Jones at first base because Parker pitches that could change a little bit here or there because you can’t play first base and then go into pitch because you lose your DH when you do that so sometimes he’ll DH. He’s going to be in the lineup everyday. Second base will probably be Wingo or Casey Rihn. Rihn is a junior college player out of California. They were pretty even after fall practice. Bobby Haney sort of has the edge on the shortstop job. He did not have a productive fall offensively so that could change things up a little bit. Probably Drew Crisp at third, although he could play somewhere else. We’ll have to see how that develops in the early going. DeAngelo Mack returns out in leftfield. Whit Merrifield will play in center. Jackie Bradley, the true freshman from Richmond, looks like he is going to be the starter in right. Adam Matthews had a productive fall at times and competed very well. He’s a very special athlete. That seems to be the deal, although Merrifield did play in the infield a little bit. We could make that move if we wanted to. Justin Dalles and Brady Thomas looked good behind the plate. Kyle Enders is a returner so we have three pretty good catchers. We’ll see how it develops.”

(On Associate Head Coach Chad Holbrook)
Coach Holbrook is not only a great recruiter, but he’s also a great coach. He’s going to coach third (base) for us. He’s a great offensive coach. He’s spent a tremendous amount of time this fall emphasizing on base percentage. Last year we hit our homeruns, but our on base percentage wasn’t as good as it needed to be. I asked him to put a great emphasis on that, he did it, and we seem to be making some strides there. Hopefully we will be better offensively. Ironically, we lost a lot of power from a year ago and we hit more homeruns this fall than we did last fall. It was only by one, but it was a surprising number for us.”

(On whether the new stadium is more of a hitter’s park)
“I thought it played very similar to the Sarge with the exception of centerfield. It’s hard to get a ball out of here in centerfield. We had about 10 balls hit the backdrop in practice and no homeruns, so it’ll be a park where there will be some triples and you’re going to need a centerfielder that can go get them.”