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Baseball: Visiting sports writers slam UL baseball field press area – apology followed

By Claire Taylorctaylor@theadvertiser.comBy Megan Wyattmbwyatt@theadvertiser.com
The Advertiser, June 5, 2014

The Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team came out on top last week in the NCAA Lafayette Regional Tournament it hosted, but the University of Louisiana at Lafayette struck out with some sports writers because of the media facilities at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field.

"For a college and even some of the high school places I covered, it was a little worse than that," Michael Bonner, sports writer with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, told The Daily Advertiser Thursday.

Bonner, who writes about Southeastern Conference team Mississippi State, was among several sports writers to criticize the inadequate media accommodations for the tournament.

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"I’m sure it wasn’t as plush as some of the places in the SEC, but it was acceptable," UL Athletic Director Scott Farmer said.

Tigue Moore Field was built in the early 1970s and doesn’t have a large press box, he said.

"We did the best we could in creating temporary space for the media," he said. "The NCAA media liaison inspected it and that person was extremely pleased with the temporary setup we put together to accommodate the large number of media."

Some sports writers who didn’t get into the press box were set up in the back row of Section F behind fans, Bonner said. A couple of rows of bleachers were removed to accommodate a table and reporters sat on bleacher seats, but the table set up for them was so low they had to hunch over to use it, he said.

"The folding table came down to my shins. My computer was at my shins," said Logan Lowery, a sports writer for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. "Four days of that is a little more than my back could take."

It was crowded and to get out of the makeshift press area to use the restroom the sports writers had to crawl over the table and fans to reach an aisle, Lowery said.

The press area was beneath the baseball field’s overhang, but when it rained — and it rained hard, causing a three-hour game delay — everything got wet, including power strips, Bonner said. It was difficult to do your job, Bonner said.

"Basically, there’s not much they could possibly do. They need to do a complete overhaul," he said.

Matthew Stevens, Mississippi State University beat writer for The Commercial Dispatch in Columbus, Mississippi (who blasted Lafayette, its people and culture in an online interview for which he later apologized), agreed that the accommodations were bad.

"I know a lot of my colleagues that cover Mississippi State would say that the working conditions were poor, but I fully operate under the principle that nobody listening to a radio show or reading a newspaper cares about how hard the job can be," Stevens said.

The university staff provided him with all that he needed to do his job, including access to wireless and players for interviews, he said.

"Was it more primitive than I was used to? Yes. Was it more uncomfortable? Yes. But they did the best they could with what they had," Stevens said.

Renovations to Tigue Moore Field are included in the Facility Master Plan’s Tier 2, Farmer said. UL is working on Tier 1 projects now. When Tier 1 is finished and private funds are raised, work can begin on Tier 2, which is expected to coast $69-70 million, he said.

When UL hosts an NCAA Super Regional against Ole Miss starting Saturday, sports journalists will have a larger covered makeshift press area because the university is anticipating even more media, Farmer said.

Not all the news was negative.

"The hospitality down there was great," Lowery said. "They fed us well. They even had beer for us in the press room. I would have traded the food and beer for better working conditions."