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College Baseball Countdown: 97 Days to Go - Houston College Classic

If you missed our post introducing the college baseball countdown, read it here. Go ahead; we’ll wait.

Today, with 97 days to go until opening day, we’re going to discuss the Houston College Classic.

I have to admit that I do have one complaint about this tournament, so I’ll get that out of the way first. The city of Houston never really gets cold for any lengthy period of time, but in the months of February and March, the weather could often be described as “brisk.”

As any person who has attended this event for years can tell you, it matters not which weekend they choose to play this tournament. Regardless of the date, it is bound to be chilly and dreary that entire weekend, and when the roof is closed, the wind howls in through gaps in the retractable roof, making it colder inside the stadium than it is outside. Some of the times in my life that I have been coldest happened inside Minute Maid Park during this event, and this is coming from someone who just recently spent several years living in the Midwest.

Now that we’ve covered that ground, we can get to why this event is so special. Simply put, this tournament is annually one of the very best in college baseball, and for my money, since its inception in 2001, it has been the single best continuously-running tournament in the sport.

Houston and Rice are there every year (with the exception of last year, when a scheduling quirk forced Rice out of the field), Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor take turns taking part, and TCU is a semi-regular. Throughout the years, programs like LSU, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, and Nebraska have made appearances.

Every single year, the field is absolutely loaded, and the 2016 field is no exception. On the second weekend of the season, Minute Maid Park will host Houston, Rice, Texas Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, TCU, and Arkansas. All six of those teams have hosted either a regional or a super regional at some point in the last two seasons, and three of those teams have advanced to the College World Series in that same time span (TTU- ’14, Ark.- ’15, TCU- ’14 and ’15).

Attendance for this event is always quite good. It reached a crescendo last year when LSU fans largely took over Minute Maid Park, but the 2016 crowds should be impressive as well.

Houston, Rice, TCU, and Tech will bring out plenty of Houston-based alumni, and ULL and Arkansas fans are among the most passionate in college baseball. Lafayette is just about three hours from Houston, giving Ragin Cajuns fans an easy drive, and Arkansas fans would show up in droves even if this tournament was being played in Anchorage, Alaska, Tokyo, Japan, on the Gobi desert, or anywhere else. The Razorbacks were last in this field in 2012, and the turnout was incredible.

So by all means, pack a jacket and some gloves and be at Minute Maid Park for this tournament in February. You won’t regret it.

Andrew Lantrip - Photo by Don Miller - CBC

Andrew Lantrip - Photo by Don Miller - CBC

Joe Healy was first introduced to college baseball when he grew up watching the likes of Jeff Niemann, Philip Humber, and Wade Townsend pitch for Rice University. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement. That love only grew as he went off to college at Sam Houston State University, where he practically lived at Don Sanders Stadium watching his Bearkats under the direction of the legendary Mark Johnson. He holds a B.A. in political science from SHSU and is working toward his Masters in Public Administration from SIU-Edwardsville in Edwardsville, Illinois.