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January 26, 2006

SCS.comHurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in August of 2005 like no other storm in history. No one, no place, and no team was spared from her wrath. The coasts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana were destroyed. The city of New Orleans felt the brunt of Katrina's unbiased fury. Hundreds of thousands of the Crescent City's residents were displaced by the storm, and many lost their lives. The Tulane baseball team escaped the city with an uncertain future ahead, but happy to still have a future to look forward to.

After the storm left her devastating mark, the Tulane baseball team was relocated to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Tech stepped up and welcomed the Green Wave baseball family for the 2005 fall semester. While in Lubbock, Tulane players were intently involved in the community, as they were in their own community before disaster struck. The players spent a great deal of time with the Lubbock area Boys and Girls Club forging friendships with the children they met there. The children of the Lubbock Boys and Girls Club will miss the young men of the Green Wave.

"Everyone has been so good to us since we arrived," Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. "Anything we can do to give back to the community, we are more than willing to do."

Before Katrina caused the sudden change of venue, Green Wave players were very involved in the New Orleans community. Organizations such as Deuce McAllister's Shop with a Jock, St. Michael's Special School, and the Tulane Paint Rally all received volunteer help from players, even though their presence was missed this fall. The Green Wave enjoyed the hospitality of Lubbock, but were anxious to get back to New Orleans for the spring semester which began in January.

Not only did Katrina relocate the Green Wave baseball team to Lubbock, Texas, she also relocated them to a temporary home at Zephyr Field in Metairie, LA. Turchin Stadium (Tulane's home field) was under renovation when Katrina made landfall. Zephyr Field will serve as TU's home field for the 2006 season, but the Green Wave players will have a fresh start in a newly remodeled stadium when they make their return to New Orleans.

The Green Wave will play all 38 games on its 2006 home schedule at their temporary home, a place that they are very familiar with. The 10,000 seat minor league park has hosted the Green Wave 31 times since the 1998 baseball season. Tulane has averaged over 6,000 fans for those games. In 2005 the Wave hosted in state rival LSU at Zephyr Field and hosted a record crowd of 12,069 fans. Zephyr Field has hosted NCAA Regionals, Super Regionals, and Conference USA Tournaments in 1998 and 2001.

"The Zephyrs realize the importance of Green Wave Baseball in New Orleans and are happy to host them this year," said Zephyrs General Manager Mike Schline.

The Tulane baseball team is very fortunate to have a place like Zephyr Field to go when events out of their control occur. Since Zephyr Field is a first class facility, the Tulane players are excited about the new digs. The Tulane coaches are very excited and appreciative. "We're extremely appreciative of the cooperation we have received from the Zephyrs and Washington Nationals in allowing us to conduct our full home schedule at Zephyr Field," said Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson. Zephyr Field will hope to see more than 38 home Green Wave dates in 2006.

With all the turmoil surrounding the program, Tulane players and coaches have not let any of it affect them. The Green Wave is a preseason top 25 team in many of the preseason polls. Tulane finished in the top 25 in 2005 and plan on the same results in 2006. Zephyr Field will host an outstanding schedule for 2006, and the Conference USA Tournament may be hosted by the Wave for the third time. Big-name teams such as LSU, Rice, and Pepperdine will invade the Green Wave's temporary home. Tulane will likely be picked to finish second in Conference USA behind the highly touted Rice Owls, from New Orleans friendly Houston. Many publications foresee the Green Wave hosting an NCAA Regional and Super Regional.

The large crowds that have frequented Turchin Stadium and Zephyr Field over the years may be smaller in size in 2006. Since nearly 50% of the city of New Orleans was evacuated and many of the citizens have yet to return home, the home crowds will undoubtedly be much smaller. The Tulane fans will be excited about the Wave, but many of them now live in Houston, Shreveport, Memphis, and even Little Rock. The mass exodus of New Orleans will mean that the 2006 season has a different feel than any other season in the history of Tulane baseball. Tulane has enough talent on hand to win games whether there are 1,000 people in the stands or 10,000. Tulane coach Rick Jones has taught these young men how to persevere and unite as a team. This team has been through the ringer since a Monday morning in late August; they will get by. The Tulane student body will be much smaller this semester, but the baseball roster is intact. That shows the stability of this program.

This program, the players, coaches, and fans have been on an emotional rollercoaster since Hurricane Katrina struck. From New Orleans to Lubbock and back to New Orleans, this baseball team has stuck it out and persevered. It will never be the same in New Orleans or at Tulane University, but the Green Wave will be successful. When you have leaders such as Nathan Southard, Warren McFadden, Sam Wiley, and Aja Barto, you will have a strong family core. They may not all be First Team Conference USA players, but they are part of the Green Wave family. They have bonded as a family, and that can not be taken away from them. The players will return to charity work when the city is restored, crowds will return to a new Turchin Stadium, but the team will win immediately.

I believe this team will be at Rosenblatt Stadium in June. During times of tragedy, unlikely heroes emerge to accomplish amazing feats. The unlikely heroes this year will be the Tulane Green Wave. This team has the ability to win forty-five or fifty games, and I am picking them to win Conference USA. Rice will challenge the Green Wave for the crown, but at the end of conference schedule, Tulane will be on top. The Wave has the experience and talent to make a College World Series run, I believe they will, as do thirty-plus players and a coaching staff who just recently returned home to New Orleans.

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