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Enron Field home of inaugural classic

Jan. 30, 2001

Bears reminisce about Southwest



Sports Writer

This weekend christens the first Houston Astros College Baseball Classic, and the No. 16-ranked Baylor Bears will be a driving force among the competition. The universities will have a major league baseball experience in the sparkling new Enron field, located in the center of the city.

The old Southwest Conference has been revived for this tournament with the University of Houston, Rice University, Texas Christian University, the University of Texas, Texas Tech University and Baylor all participating.

Baylor has interesting connections with the tournament beyond the old conference memories. The Houston Chronicle is sponsoring the event, and its executive vice president and editor happens to be a 1957 Baylor graduate. During his freshman year, Jack Loftis was also the starting catcher for the Bears, and the press box on the new Baylor Ballpark will bear his name.

'It [the tournament] does indeed bring back great memories of the Southwest Conference for me,' Loftis said. 'I remember my first game in 1953. Matt Miller was the starting pitcher and Ty Newton was our coach. We played Texas and beat them.'

Loftis will be throwing the first pitch of the tournament, while Newton and Miller will also be there for a Baylor baseball reunion.

'They said that if I throw the ball and it bounces before the plate, they'll never talk to me again,' Loftis said. 'So I'm going to aim high.'

Baylor's Houston links do not stop with the Chronicle.

Drayton McLane, a 1958 Baylor graduate, is the chairman of the Houston Astros Baseball Club and has been a very active alumnus for the Baylor community. One of his most recent activities was the Student Life Center, which was named after him.

'He [McLane] came to me with the idea for the tournament,' Loftis said. 'I was very pleased that the Chronicle was going to present it.'

The trip to Enron field may give many Baylor baseball players a look at their future-playing site, as the Bears may now be prime Houston recruits. A Big 12 Conference Championship and a top 25 ranking serve as indicators of a successful program, and draw attention from the pros. Two Bears have already taken the Astros path.

Charley Carter and Jon Topolski are climbing the Astros' ladder in the minors. Carter currently plays for the Class AA Round Rock Express and Topolski is at the AA Michigan Battle Cats.

All the coincidences will make for an interesting weekend for the Bears. Students are also encouraged to attend and support the first baseball event of the 2001 season. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at (713) 629-3700 or at the Enron Field Box Office Window. Baylor opens its season at 6 p.m. Thursday against Rice.

'I hope that this will be an annual event,' Loftis said. 'There is no better showplace for great baseball than Enron field. I hope there is a great turn-out and we can keep it going.'

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