A cancellation, a last-minute schedule change and a stadium – for now – with no fans marks the return of Lady Vol softball.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn – For the first time in nearly a year, broadcaster Brian Rice’s voice echoed online for the first pitch of a Lady Vol softball game. It’s the only spot on Sunday you can follow while Tennessee kicks off its home opener.
“It’s been a long journey, there are no fans in the stands today,” said Rice.
“Ashley Rogers rips and fires, ball one out and we are on our way for the 2021 season here at Lee Stadium.”
If you want to find fans you have to look a little closer … closer …
“We are so excited to finally be able to watch some softball.”
On the hill behind the stadium, near the train tracks, Lynda Rogers is here to watch her daughter, Ashley, pitch for the Lady Vols. The starter was injured before the COVID-19 was eliminated, so it’s been a bit since she’s had a chance.
“It’s been a long time, 600 and a little days ago, she said, since it’s been a real game, so we’re desperate for softball and that’s why we’re here on the train tracks,” Rogers said.
The home opening doubleheader had to be quickly adjusted after the Kickin ‘Chicken Classic in Conway, South Carolina, was canceled due to bad weather on Friday. On Saturday-afternoon, the games against Eastern Kentucky were scheduled and ready for Sunday-afternoon. Unfortunately, due to the last minute changes, Tennessee was unable to assemble the staff needed to host fans for the home game. The Lady Vols will host a limited number of fans at home games this season. Next home games are on February 20 and February 21 against Southeast Missouri State University and Miami (OH).
Back to the hill and Bryce Collier. His girlfriend is on the team. Collier is a former athlete himself, he knows that hard work has been done for this moment. He was ready to come out and support them.
“I know how much it means to these girls, they haven’t been able to play another opponent for the past year. I know you have to go through practice, it’s great, you can perfect your craft, but it’s not like the stringing off the cleats and playing against someone else. I know how much it means to them to finally get back on the field and finally show what they are capable of, “said Collier.
So until the gates of Sherri Parker Lee Stadium reopen, the view from the outside isn’t too bad.