BATON ROUGE -- Before the largest paid attendance in Alex Box Stadium history, No. 22 LSU beat Mississippi State, 9-6, Sunday and swept the weekend series in the final regular season contest at the historic ballpark.
After the victory, over 100 former LSU players spanning seven decades of baseball in Alex Box Stadium joined current players, coaches, fans and LSU Athletics Director and legendary Tiger baseball coach Skip Bertman to commemorate 70 years in “The Box."
The Tigers (35-16-1, 15-11-1 SEC), winners of 12 consecutive games, swept their third straight SEC series for the first time since the 1991 national championship season. Mississippi State dropped to 20-32 and 7-20 in the SEC.
LSU is in first place in the SEC Western Division, 1.5 games ahead of Alabama and Ole Miss. The Tigers’ 12-game win streak is the longest by an LSU squad since the 2000 club won 13 in a row at the end of its national championship season.
Fans couldn’t take their seats with them Sunday after the last regular season game at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium, but they could take their memories and, if they wanted, a souvenir T-shirt or program.
Like nearly everyone else at the ballpark, Bobby Box left with more than a few of each those things.
Box, 55, a Baton Rouge resident who is the nephew of the stadium’s namesake, recounted growing up a few blocks from the stadium named years before in honor of an uncle he never met.
As a youth, he would ride his bike over to the stadium with his friends and shag foul balls for the baseball team, Box said Sunday during the regular season finale against Mississippi State. In return for foul balls, he said, the players gave the children their cracked wooden bats, which Box and his friends taped up and used in their own games.
Box knew all about his family’s legacy attached to the stadium — his father, Neal, had told him at an early age about Alex Box, an LSU baseball and football player and U.S. Army first lieutenant killed in North Africa during World War II.
But for Bobby Box — and about 6,555 other fans who crowded into the stadium for one more game — the memories weren’t about the name that adorned the stadium, the seats or the field.
It was always about the game.
With a No. 22 ranking, a lead in the SEC Western Division and 12 consecutive wins, some say LSU has put itself in a prime position to host an NCAA regional at Alex Box Stadium one last time.
Can you say Omaha?
But regional sites won’t be announced until the final day of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on May 25, so many fans left the ballpark Sunday afternoon wondering if that was the last game they would see within the stadium’s walls.
That’s the reason why there was no question LSU had to have a ceremony after the game commemorating the park’s history, said Bertman, the outgoing LSU athletic director and architect of the national championship winning program.
Bertman, who said he “fulfilled a lot of dreams" at the old stadium, acknowledged it will be difficult to leave behind the stadium but added that players and fans will make new memories at the new ballpark.
“It would be just another ball yard except for these fans," Bertman said after the post-game ceremony. “The fans made The Box, and they’ll make the new stadium."
The new $31 million Alex Box Stadium is being built at Nicholson Drive and Gourrier Lane, about 1,000 feet south of the present Alex Box Stadium. It will seat more than 8,700 fans — about 1,000 more than the present stadium — and is scheduled to open at the beginning of the 2009 season.
For some fans, however, leaving behind the old stadium on Sunday was still difficult.