Growth of college baseball bittersweet for Jumbo Sports founder
When former LSU pitcher Ronnie Rantz started the Jumbo Sports Network in the late 1990s, college baseball was rarely seen on TV. Rantz and his partners have since broadcast hundreds of regular season and postseason games. But now, ESPN owns the postseason. While it's airing this weekend's super regional tournament in a primetime slot, its decision to relegate last weekend's Baton Rouge regional to the online-only ESPN3 infuriated some local fans who perhaps don't realize how good they've had it over the years. Rantz can take pride in watching the growth of college baseball on TV, but he knows the heyday of Jumbo Sports is over. "It's the end of an era," he says. "It wasn't just business. It was something very personal." At the same time, Rantz realizes the national exposure is a good thing for the sport he loves. Like LSU's move from the old Alex Box Stadium to the new one, he says, change is bittersweet—but necessary. "It is the best thing, but change is difficult for everybody," he says. Jumbo Sports isn't going away; Rantz expects the network will still do a few games a year, including the annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic at Zephyr Field in Metairie. The impact of the SEC Network's new 20-year deal with ESPN, beginning in August 2014, remains to be seen. Former LSU baseball coach and athletic director Skip Bertman bestowed the nickname "Jumbo" on Rantz, who says he was listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds but actually played at about 265 pounds. Tonight's opener of the super regional series between LSU and Oklahoma begins at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Game two will be on ESPN 2, as well as game three, if necessary. —David Jacobs
Today's poll question: How do you plan to follow the LSU Tigers' super regional games against Oklahoma this weekend?
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