An emotional 91-year-old Cecil O’Brate walked to the pitcher’s mound a little before 4 p.m. with OSU baseball coach Josh Holliday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the stadium that holds O’Brates name.
After weeks and weeks of only getting to practice in their new home, the Cowboys finally got to take the field — it was the moment they had dreamed about.
It couldn’t have gone any better. Right handed pitcher Justin Campbell delivered the first game pitch for a strike, and then proceeded to strike out the side.
“It was awesome (to finally play in the stadium),” Cabbiness said. “Last week, we obviously opened up against Wichita State to get those jitters out, but today, I woke up with a whole different kind of jitters. Although it wasn't packed tonight, it was about as good as it could get.”
The stadium officially hosted 2,635 baseball fans, instead of 7,000, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Holliday was focused on the game the majority of the time, but he did take some time throughout and before the game to take in the moment. Although, he did admit he felt some emotions swirling, so he locked back into the game.
“I enjoyed listening to the players talk about what was going on, a lot of smiles, a lot of grins and a lot of happy kids,” Holliday said. “There was a lot of joy present in our group before the game and during the game taking in all of the first moments.”
The Cowboys’ first hit came in the second inning with a double to left-center field off the bat of Cade Cabbiness, a super senior right fielder. The hit got the Cowboys going to the tune of five runs in the bottom of the second, and they never turned back.
The hit was well timed for Cabbiness, who has not had the start to the season he had hoped for. He started the year 0-for-six with five strikeouts. He switched the script today.
“It was a little extra special for me, I guess, because I actually got a hit today, so that was nice,” Cabbiness said. “I didn’t even actually know it until they threw the ball back into the dugout, I had figured we already had gotten a hit then.”
His fellow super senior in the lineup Alix Garcia was also able to stake claim to a few firsts in the new stadium.
He sent a fastball away in the zone into the visitors' bullpen in the fifth inning to fire up the Gap Band and mark the first home run of O’Brate Stadium. He was also the first runner to cross the plate for a run of a Hueston Morrill single in the second inning.
“It was a pretty cool feeling (to get the first homerun), I definitely didn’t think it was going to be me. We have a pretty stacked lineup,” Garcia said. “I kind of blacked out a little bit running the bases I was not expecting to do it.”
The long-awaited first game in O’Brate stadium ended with the Cowboys’ 7-2 win over Little Rock, and it was all thanks to the man who ended up with the first strike ball: Mr. O’Brate.
“If you can just share with someone how grateful you are, that’s what we try to do everytime we see him is just tell him how much we appreciate it,” Holliday said. “You can’t say thank you enough.
“A lot of firsts, just a day they’ll never forget.”