ATHENS -- Georgia baseball head coach David Perno used to get kidded by Ray Tanner, his friend and the longtime South Carolina baseball head coach, about Georgias rigorous non-conference schedule: too many road games, too tough a slate and a big hole to climb out of once SEC play began.
That has changed this year, but its not because Perno finally tired of hearing of it from Tanner, now South Carolinas athletics director. Perno says its because his own AD, Greg McGarity, and McGaritys staff paid to make Foley Field more presentable.
Through the 2000s, it was kind of stale. So I felt like we can go on the road and push these guys and challenge them, and itll help us later in the year, Perno said. But with the renovations, its a much better place to play this time of year. So certainly, we want to play more home games.
Starting Wednesday, Georgia begins a run of 13 of 14 games at Foley Field, and the exception is a midweek game at Georgia State, an hour away.
The right-field area at Foley Field is the most noticeable change. The high-definition scoreboard is new. And part of last years $1.5 million allocation for renovations went to landscaping and bleacher seating in the right-field area.
Elsewhere, some trees that previously were beyond the walls from left-to-center field were replaced. Georgia is also studying more expensive renovations, but it hasnt been approved yet. That would include changes to the entrance, a fan plaza and other efforts to make it more fan friendly.
In the meantime, as Perno himself said, its up to the Bulldogs to attract fans to the park by earning some victories.
The season started out in less than ideal fashion last weekend, as Georgia Southern took two of three, including an 11-2 thrashing Sunday.
That kind of stained the weekend a little bit, Perno said. But we know weve got a long way to go and thats a tough place to play, and thats a good team. Were not overreacting one way or another. We know we got exposed a little bit, so weve gotta make some adjustments and go from there.
The glaring disappointment was not getting a better Sunday start from sophomore pitcher Luke Crumley, who gave up seven runs in two innings. But Perno expressed confidence in Crumley turning it around. The bigger worry is offense. Perno didnt like the amount of strikeouts and the inability to create chances for big innings.
We have expectations that itll be better than it was the last couple years, Perno said. Unfortunately we looked the way we did the last couple years.
Georgia has a chance to iron out that the next four weeks -- almost all the time at home, for a change.