The eye of the tiger is in the center of the field, and "LSU Tigers" adorns its borders. But this is not Tiger Stadium. It's Tiger Park, where the LSU softball team just played its final season series. Players, coaches and administrators from the past and present remembered the little field nestled behind the PMAC and the W.T. "Dub" Robinson Tennis Stadium. Coach Yvette Girouard has been vocal about her distaste for the old park, complaining that the concession stand is a shed and that the team does not have its own locker room or offices in the park. The Tigers' facilities are located in the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse two parking lots away. Girouard said even as an opposing coach for the University of Louisiana-Lafayette before coming to LSU in 2001, she was never impressed with LSU's softball facilities. "I always thought, 'This is the best LSU can do?'" she said. "We've done a lot of things to help it. The outfield fence is as good as anything in the country, and the field itself is nice. But that's about it." Still, Girouard has fond memories of her time at the park, including winning LSU's first-ever Women's College World Series regional series against her old Ragin' Cajuns in 2002. She also remembers her first game as a Tiger. "My heart was beating pretty quick because I wanted to be accepted," Girouard said. LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman said the most memorable game he attended in Tiger Park was the second game of a Saturday doubleheader in this past season's conference series with No. 1 Tennessee. LSU lost the first game but won the second, 5-1, and took over the Southeastern Conference lead with a win the next day. Tiger Park holds seating for 1,000 people, but a record 2,326 fans saw LSU hand the eventual WCWS finalists their worst loss of the season. "The [new park] has over 1,500 seats," Bertman said. "But it has a berm, a grassy hill in right field in which people sit wherever they'd like. They have a very nice clubhouse that has some seating that faces the field as well, so it's possible to get almost 3,000 into the stadium." Bertman said he has seen some of the best players in the nation play in Tiger Park. One is three-time All-American pitcher Britni Sneed - now an assistant coach at Baylor. Sneed said the win against UL-Lafayette after three seasons of missing the WCWS was her proudest moment in Tiger Park. "It was our backyard, and I loved it," Sneed said. "Maybe there were other stadiums in the country that were better than ours, but to me it was the best." Sneed, a 2002 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist, said she has mixed emotions about seeing the team finally get the stadium that had been promised to Girouard since she arrived in Baton Rouge. "It's where my blood, sweat and tears went, and I'm sad - selfishly - to see it will no longer be the home of the Tiger softball team," she said. "But I am glad to see the new generation of girls getting to play in absolutely one of the best stadiums in the country." Kristin Schmidt, Sneed's pitching teammate and 2004 WCWS Most Valuable Player, said she visits the old and new stadiums often because she still lives in Baton Rouge. Schmidt said the fans were a big part of Tiger Park. Many stay after games to talk to players and the coaches whether the team wins or loses. Schmidt said her favorite aspect of Tiger Park is something completely unique to the stadium - its size. "The fence is 200 feet to left and right field and 220 feet in the gaps at left-center and right-center," she said. "If someone hits a home run at Tiger Park, you know they earned it." LSU will host the 2008 SEC Tournament, the last games to be played in the current stadium. The new $12 million park is being built across from the Veterinary Medicine building on Skip Bertman Drive and is expected to open February 2009.
----Contact Krysten Oliphant at firstname.lastname@example.org