Fans glad to be at ‘The Nick’ on baseball Opening Weekend

Jordan Wells

WKU fans had different reasons to brace chilly weather this weekend and watch the Toppers during a three-game home set against Toledo.

An average of 739 fans showed up to Nick Denes Field on Friday afternoon and again for a Saturday doubleheader to see WKU go 1-2 in its first home series since last May.

Justin Hogue, 25, from Okeana, Ohio, and senior Matt Vogel, from Corydon, Ind., enjoyed Saturday’s twin billing from the third-base deck.

Hogue, a graduate assistant with the team’s strength and conditioning staff, said he sees the players working out almost every day and came out to the field to see them in action.

“I’ve got to lead them a couple of times through workouts,” Hogue said. “They are very motivated — a great group of guys. It should be an exciting year for them.”

Vogel said he was in attendance because he likes supporting WKU sports, but he especially enjoys the social atmosphere of baseball.

“Especially when it’s nice weather, it’s a great way to spend time with friends,” he said.

Mark Walker, a senior from Brentwood, Tenn., also watched the Toppers from the third-base deck.

Walker said he was interested to see how WKU’s new squad looked after the loss of several players to the MLB draft, notably former center fielder Kes Carter, who was taken No. 56 overall in June’s draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Most of the guys I knew graduated or got drafted like Kes, but I’m still looking forward to watching (senior third baseman) Casey Dykes this season,” he said. “Casey went to a cross-town rival high school of mine. He’s a great player.”

While the atmosphere down the third-base line on Saturday seemed business as usual for WKU fans, some down the first base line were unusually reserved.

Several members from WKU’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity viewed the game from the first base deck, rooting on the Toppers but missing brother, Brad Boling.

Boling, a Bowling Green senior, passed away Friday morning from unknown causes.

Bowling Green senior Austin Reed, an SAE brother of Boling, said coming out to the game on Saturday is something Boling would’ve liked him to do.

“It’s definitely different without him here,” Reed said. “Brad loved to support his Toppers. These next few days are going to be rough, but it will slowly get better.”

As for the current season, Reed said he’s most excited about WKU hosting the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Bowling Green Ballpark on May 23-27.

The downtown stadium serves as home of the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Rays’ Single-A Midwest League affiliate. The Toppers have hosted a few midweek games in the downtown ballpark in the last two years, going a combined 3-0 in games against Kentucky and Louisville.

 “I know we lost a few great players from last year, but with the tournament being in Bowling Green this year, I think we’ve got a great shot,” Reed said.