Normal circumstances don’t call for the Linda Ronstadt song “Blue Bayou” to be played on the public address system at University Field.
But Missouri softball assistant coach Tom Royder does.
Any time Missouri pitching records three strikeouts in an inning, the PA blares a short clip of the song at the coach’s request.
Royder sees it as an opportunity to congratulate his staff on a job well-done.
He makes it a pun on the situation. If Ronstadt were singing to opposing hitters, she would be saying the ball just, “blew by you.”
“We don’t focus on strikeouts,” Royder said. “But they’re kind of like icing on the cake.”
So when his pitchers strike out the side, he sees a cause for celebration.
“It usually means they’re in a good groove,” Royder said.
On the Tigers’ most recent home date, March 20 in the Tiger Classic, the song was played seven times in two games.
Erica Peterson struck out all 12 batters she faced in the team’s first game, a win against Louisiana Tech.
Teammates Erin Kalka and Jen Bruck combined for three more three-strikeout innings that afternoon, which included a win against Missouri Kansas-City.
Creating customs like the song is all part of the team’s goal to create a “minor-league atmosphere” at home games, Royder said.
The idea is if fans come out often enough they will expect certain in-game contests and promotions.
Royder hopes the atmosphere will draw more people to see the No. 16 Tigers, and make watching them more enjoyable.
Stephanie Menio, the team’s marketing associate, is in her first year with the team. She served the volleyball, women’s basketball and gymnastics teams in the same capacity this season.
One of her duties is to coordinate in-game promotions, a task for which she received feedback in the offseason.
“A lot of different people from all walks of the athletic department provided their input,” Menio said.
She quizzed co-workers about their experiences at minor-league baseball games, and also searched web sites of other college softball teams for ideas.
“There’s no real original ideas in marketing,” Menio said.
One of the better-received promotions this year has been the hot dog fling. A few home fans who cheer loud enough between innings are tossed a free hot dog.
Fans also get involved in the cheer of the game.
Whenever Missouri pitching records a
strikeout, the Tigers players yell, “M-I-Z…”
The crowd then responds, “Z-O-U!”
The Tigers played ten home games in March. Three others were rained out. Attendance at games has been up to expectations thus far, Menio said.
She hopes warmer weather and the start of the home conference schedule this weekend will cause more fans to come to games.
“We want them to know that they have a place to go to,” Menio said. “It’s cheap and they can have a good time.”
The Tigers, who will be home Saturday against No. 9 Oklahoma, lost on the road to Southern Illinois-Carbondale 2-1 on Thursday.
Missouri (27-4) scored first on a two-out single by catcher Kathy Masterson that scored Janessa Roening in the second inning. But Southern Illinois (25-8) scored twice in the bottom of the inning to grab the lead.
Salukis pitcher Amy Harre allowed three hits and picked up the victory. Missouri’s Erica Peterson lasted 3 1/3 innings and dropped to 14-2 this season.