By Steve Williams
Starkville, mostly known for its cowbells, got a little crazier this past weekend. The Locos were in town.
That zany group of softball fans who make UT home games a hoot traveled to Mississippi to support the Lady Vols in the SEC tournament.
How do I know they were there?
I heard them on the radio broadcast as Tennessee played South Carolina Thursday afternoon.
“Aubrey Leach … Reach” … “Hit it down the line Vine, Hit it down the line” … “G Money” … “Fear the Geer” – their popular chants using players’ names could easily be heard in the background.
Brian Rice, who was doing the play-by-play, even took a moment during the game to thank the Locos and express how much they are appreciated by the UT coaches and players, particularly at games on the road.
The Lady Vols are 22-1 in home games this season and the Locos have helped make that happen. Depending on their seeding in the upcoming NCAA tournament, Tennessee probably will host a regional tournament starting Friday and possibly a super regional beginning May 26.
The Locos will be there and probably in Oklahoma City too for the College World Series, if the Lady Vols make it that far.
The Locos are in their third season and include eight “regulars,” said Terry Blevins, serving as a spokesman for the group at a home game earlier this season. “We’re a little bit of a mixed group. (Mixed-up group may be more accurate) Some are graduates of UT and some are former softball players at a pretty high level.
“We’re big Tennessee fans and season ticket holders of different sports. We tried out softball one time and loved it.
“We’ve kind of been embraced by the coaches and players and everybody. It’s just been a lot of fun and has grown from there. We just love getting the crowd involved.”
A news guy, said Blevins, gave them their name. No, it’s not short for the locomotives that pass by Lee Stadium occasionally.
No, it just has to do with craziness, said Blevins.
“We started to be the ‘crazies,’ but Duke has that cornered. So somebody said Lady Vol Locos.”
The two males among the “regulars” are Blevins and Michael Beeler, who lead the cheers with booming voices. The female regulars are Sharon Taylor, Debbie Barker, Debi Hyatt, Lora Fowler, Patty
Cawrse and Kelly Litton.
Sometimes there might be as many as 15 Locos at a home game.
“The number fluctuates based on peoples’ schedules,” said Blevins. “A lot just come for the day and like to participate.”
The Locos welcome all orange hairs and fresh lungs.
“It’s a little different,” laughs Terry. “Obviously, we’re adults. We’re out here yelling and screaming like crazy with hats on, so it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.”
The Locos’ seats are at the top of the stands and there’s a small patio-like area behind their section where they can place their many signs and props. The only negative is that visiting fans are pretty close to their section.
“Sometime they don’t like what we do,” said Terry. “Last year in the regionals, a Florida State lady threw a bottle of water at us. She was not happy.”
It could have been worse. It could have been a spear.
Locos don’t hassle the opponents.
“Very little if at all,” said Blevins. “We try to be positive. It’s mostly cheering for our team. Now in college baseball, fans sometimes scout out opposing players and say mean things about their mommas. We don’t do that.
“But sometimes in the heat of competition, the yelling and cheering can get under your skin. Some people have gotten upset, but most people have received us well and complimented us as far as providing a good environment. We welcome the opponents.”
One of these days, if they haven’t already, the Locos should roll out a Big Orange carpet for their guests. Now wouldn’t that be nice. Real nice.