By Randy York
In our never-ending drive to give Nebraska fans The N-Side scoop on smart choices, we have an Easter Weekend Special today. Even if you’ve never been to a Husker softball game, Saturday is a triple-option doozy…free tailgate, free lunch and free softball between Nebraska and Ohio State at 1 p.m. at Bowlin Stadium. Fans going to Hawks Field to watch the Big Red-hot baseball team take on Northwestern at 2 p.m. are encouraged to take advantage of the free admission and catch the first few innings between the Husker and Buckeye softball teams.
Other than Lincoln, Nebraska, where else in America this weekend can you stop by the World’s Largest Softball Tailgate, grab a free grilled hot dog, a free Pepsi product and a free bag of chips, then walk inside the stadium without a ticket stub and watch your own Top 20-ranked team play a softball game against the school that has the biggest athletic department in the country?
This kind of promotion only happens when NU Softball’s On-Deck Circle booster club joins forces with Nebraska Athletic Marketing and a softball program that’s confident about anyone checking out Division I softball. Even if you spend only a couple of innings watching softball after your free lunch, no one will disapprove. Husker veterans compare sampling softball to sampling licorice in the Haymarket Area. Promoters don’t give things away if they don’t think you’ll be enticed to come back.
Tailgate Festivities Begin at 10 a.m. and End at 12:30 p.m.
Did we mention Saturday’s tailgate festivities begin at 10 a.m. and include balloon artists, face painters, inflatables and games? Fans also will get the chance to watch Nebraska take batting practice on the softball field and get autographs from the team. With a Saturday forecast of 81 degrees, season ticketholders will be the first to welcome you aboard. Why? Because Nebraska will make sure their normal seats remain reserved while everyone else will use available general admission on a first-come, first-served basis.
Yes, Nebraska is going all out on a fun-filled Saturday for several solid reasons, according to Katie Brown, the director of operations for Husker softball. “This is our third straight year hosting the World’s Biggest Softball Tailgate, and we want to keep climbing and hit that 2,000-fan milestone,” Brown said. “When we joined the Big Ten and saw Illinois go for the record, we decided the idea was good and you know how we love competition. We wanted to host the World’s Biggest Softball Tailgate.”
Nebraska set the record in 2012, drawing 1,752 fans for the Wisconsin game. The Huskers set another record last year with 1,840 fans for a nationally televised game against Michigan. In another high-profile game Saturday against the Buckeyes, the Huskers are determined to hit that 2,000-fan mark. So bring your family, your friends and your neighbors for a free lunch and a sneak peek at a sport you are destined to fall in love with.
Tailgate Perfect Match for High Energy Softball
“Softball is such a great sport for anyone to watch, whether you’re bringing younger children who have never seen a game or coming into the stadium with people who have been watching it all their lives,” Brown said. “We have a tremendous team with a lot of energy and they just have a lot of fun playing the game. There’s always a lot of excitement around our team, but this weekend, our players may be as fired up as you can get.”
Hy-Vee’s ability to tailgate at a high level will be an important part of the atmosphere. So will the Death by Brass band that will play four live sets to keep the crowd in the spirit of the game before they ever walk in. “The band members are all former members of the Husker Marching Band, and they’ll be playing our fight songs and other songs everyone loves,” said Brown, who wears a lot of hats to support Nebraska’s team, players and coaches. She also manages @HuskerSoftball’s Twitter Account, plus all the logistics that go into hosting a home game, including taking care of the opponent’s needs.
Rylee Robinson (hands crossed in wheelchair) will throw out first pitch.
A Special Friend Will Throw Out First Pitch
Brown is excited that Husker play-by-play announcer Nate Rohr will do his pregame show live from The Tailgate, so fans can hear his interview with Coach Rhonda Revelle while active tailgaters are competing in softball- and baseball-throwing, tackling obstacle courses and shooting baskets. Brown will make sure, however, that all The Tailgate action will be finished by 12:30 p.m., so Nebraska fans can go inside Bowlin Stadium.
“We want everyone in their seats so they can see a very special person throw out the first pitch,” Brown said, explaining that Rylee Robinson, a 13-year-old former softball player from Topeka, Kan., will perform that honor. “It will be a very special moment for her and for all of our coaches, players and staff. Rylee was riding her bike last summer when she was hit by a car and lost a leg. She was in ICU and in critical condition for 32 days in Topeka before spending nine months rehabbing here in Lincoln at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. There have been a lot of friendships formed with this team, and it was quite a day when Rylee came to one of our practices and was able to get around all the bases. We’ve done a video and will show it before she throws out that first pitch.”
Rylee (headband, right of center) loves the team who adopted her.
Erstad Would Support Revelle’s Team
By the time that ceremonial event happens, Nebraska baseball fans will still have an hour before the Huskers’ first pitch against Northwestern. The N-Sider never would pit two prominent Nebraska Big Ten programs against each other, but I’m pretty certain of this: If Darin Erstad wasn’t coaching Saturday, he would be having lunch with the softball program before entering Hawks Field. Erstad and others in his program would want that 2,000 milestone reached for NU’s overall good. “Things like that always explain why we all say There Is No Place like Nebraska,” Brown said, “and I think Saturday’s going to be one of those days.”
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