As if welcoming our new students back to campus on Saturday and the returning students on Sunday wasn’t enough excitement, we capped the weekend with LMU Family Night at Smokies Stadium. And boy what a night it was…it even went into extra innings!
If you haven’t been to Smokies Stadium in Sevierville, what are you waiting for? I mean it, there is only one week left in the regular season, so run out to one of the few remaining games this summer. I guarantee you’ll be entertained from the minute you walk into the stadium. The Smokies organization, led by Brian Cox, has carefully planned every moment of a fan’s experience.
As you might know, LMU has an extended learning site in Sevier County through our partnership with Walters State. We teach business and education there, but it is still one of our newest extended learning sites, so we are still working to build up LMU’s presence in the area. One way we decided to go about that was to partner with the Smokies as a corporate sponsor. LMU Family Night was a feature of sponsorship and honestly at that time, I thought it was a nice little add-on to the package and not much more.
I’ve told you before I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong in this case. LMU Family Night was much more than an add-on. It was a wonderful opportunity to get our name out to the over 3,000 in attendance. And the Smokies made sure LMU was front and center throughout the night. From the pregame entertainment, where both the LMU Cheerleaders and Dance Team performed, to the ceremonial first pitch, to the national anthem to the seventh-inning stretch, LMU dominated the ballpark. The featured little league team of the night was even from Harrogate Little League!
I had been to Smokies games before, but I got a whole new perspective as I worked with the Smokies game management folks to move our people to the appropriate spot at the appropriate time. It was amazing to me how tightly everything fit together. At one point I realized that LMU’s President Jim Dawson was about to throw out the first pitch and I wasn’t in a good spot to get a photo. I sprinted down the field and was let on just in time to preserve Dr. Dawson’s pitch, which was high and outside. I turned to go back up to the concourse to wait with Freshman Mallory Tucker, who was singing the national anthem on our behalf, only to realize that she was already down on the field getting into place for her big moment.
From Mallory; to the dance team; to the high-flying cheerleaders; to Abe the mascot, LMU was represented by some of the best and brightest Railsplitters and it was a proud day to be wearing blue and gray.
It was such a great experience, we’ll keep root, root, rooting for the home team! I hope to make LMU Family Night an annual event for the University. In the mean time, LMU will be calling all Railsplitters back to Smokies Stadium on Friday, April 6, as LMU takes on Carson-Newman in baseball. It is a special rivalry game for the close competitors. What a great opportunity for our student-athletes to compete in a professional stadium.