I had the opportunity to have a few beers (OK, 6 or 7) with Smoke this evening. I wasn't going to grill him on all things LSU Baseball, but we talked about what's going on. Here are some highlights. -The new stadium won't be ready until the 2008 season. If all goes well, they may be able to play the last half of the 2007 season in it, but all signs point to 2008. It will be located on the site where the old last 4 holes of the golf course were. It won't be where the Box is now because Nicholson and the railroad tracks are too close to be able to build it how they want it. He's really involved in the design. He wants a open corridor built all the way around it where concessions will be so that people won't have to miss a single pitch when they go up for food and drinks. There will be 6,000 chairbacks and no more than 9,000 total seats. The outfield will be grass, but will allow for lawn chairs, blankets, etc. He hopes to have an arcade type facility run by bat girls where parents could drop their kids off and go watch the game. -Skip will retire sometime around when the new stadium opens. -The pitching staff should be much improved this year. None of the starters last year were true "Friday night" guys. Greg Smith could be that guy this year. -Clay Dirks has shed 30 pounds and will be wicked. -Brandon Nall is finally healthy. He's throwing it 93 mph from that submarine/sidearm delivery. He's "nasty" but still rounding into shape. He needs more innings of work, because he only threw once a week in the fall. -Blake Gill will have to DH to start the season, but may not miss as much time in the field as first believed. Bryan Harris will likely start the season at 2B. He's an athlete that can play nearly everywhere. -Pitcher Chris Cahill is going to be very good. -Quinn Stewart is almost completely healed from his hammate bone surgery and should be better. Still working on his attitude though, but he's not a character problem. -True freshman pitcher Eric English just gets people out. He throws in the low 80s, but for whatever reason, he just baffles everyone. -Mestepay is still trying to get to where he was before the injury. -Justin Meier is still having difficulty. He threw it 88-91 as a freshman, but for whatever reason, he couldn't break 84 last year. He's still not there this year. It's inexplicable. -He's fairly confident that he's got enough depth this year to be able to absorb some injuries should they occur. -Nobody was more disappointed than he was that they didn't win a game in Omaha. But he said it was just amazing that they were able to even get there last year with the pitchers they had. -Funny story about when he was hired. ULM was in town for a midweek game. The Coach's Committee has a meeting/dinner before the game at the field house, and typically the opposing coach will come and talk a little bit too. So Skip brings him in, and they do their normal thing. So they finish up, and Skip is gonna bring Smoke to the Box for the game. Instead of turning at the ballpark, Skip keeps driving. Skip asks him if he wants to take over the job when he retires, and they discuss that for a while in the car, just driving down River Road. They don't get back to the Box until the bottom of the 2nd inning. Smoke's assistant coaches at ULM are wondering what the hell is going on, and tell him in the dugout "Whatever it was, I hope it was worth it." He said, "You have no idea." -He thinks Saban is gone. Smoke is really a good coach, but more importantly a great guy. He played with my little girl, and we just had a nice evening. I even managed to name one of his new puppies. All the dogs he's ever had, have had baseball names (i.e. Shortstop, Slugger, Ribbie, etc.). He and his wife are getting 2 new puppies, and they are trying to figure out names. One of them will be Bips (BP=Batting Practice). They were stumped on the other one. I suggested Rosin, and his eyes just lit up. He said that's it. That's the other's name. Football isn't over, and I'm now ready for baseball season.