It had been a while since I had taken a baseball road trip.
So I made plans recently to meet my son Andy in Hattiesburg at the University of Southern Mississippi for the Golden Eagles’ series versus Middle Tennessee State.
USM, with two of my children attending and graduating from there, has become a regular stop in the past nine years.
I’ve enjoyed a couple of Conference USA Tournaments at Pete Taylor Park, plus several regular season games.
It’s a great place to watch baseball, and in my opinion, USM has some of the best baseball fans I’ve ever been around. I’ve been introduced to lots of people there over the years, friends of Emma and Andy, school administrators and professors, and just diehard fans, and they’ve all gone out of their way to welcome this dad from the northwest corner of Mississippi.
Hattiesburg is 291 miles from Holly Springs, which means about four and a half hours driving time.
Most in these parts are very unfamiliar with Hattiesburg and USM.
You can get on I-55 to Jackson and then hit Highway 49 or you can take I-22 to Tupelo and travel Highway 45 to Meridian where I-59 will take you the rest of the way to Hattiesburg. I prefer the Tupelo and Meridian route.
I wear lot of USM attire, given to me in recent years by Emma and Andy, or that I’ve purchased when visiting the campus or attending athletic events. I think the Burleson family is one the few in Marshall County you will see sporting USM T-shirts or sweatshirts or jackets. Most likely, you will also see a USM tag or a decal on one or all of our vehicles, too. There’s a USM sign and a USM rock in front of our house, too.
I didn’t attend USM. But I did make my first trip there with a good friend in the late 1980s with my boss at The Itawamba County Times in Fulton. That’s when a guy named Brett Favre was quarterbacking. Favre’s only Division I scholarship offer was from USM, and that’s where his legacy began. He went on to be one of the best NFL quarterbacks ever – inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
Prior to the recent Saturday baseball game of the series with Middle Tennessee, I also attended the USM spring football game. Favre, now retired, was there supporting his Golden Eagles.
As for the baseball that weekend, the Golden Eagles outscored the Middle Tennessee 28-3 in the three-game series. The scores were 9-1, 11-2 and 8-0.
I’m hoping for a few more baseball trips this spring and summer. The Conference USA Tournament, returning to Biloxi for a second straight year, is a possibility. And I’m already looking at visiting Emma in Little Rock, Ark., for some minor league action. The Arkansas Travelers, an Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, play their home games a short distance from her apartment at Dickey-Stephens Park. And I’m looking at some possible late-summer dates for a road trip to Atlanta, Ga., to see the Braves play. I didn’t get to visit Sun Trust Park in its debut season last year.
Baseball road trips are the best. And USM is one of my favorite destinations.