Blue-White weekend more than football

Commentary

Blue-White weekend in Happy Valley has become far more than a football game. And while more than 65,000 fans could file through the gates of Beaver Stadium for the Nittany Lions’ final spring football practice, the gridiron scrimmage is just the beginning of the offerings for Penn State faithful this weekend.

Over the last decade, the University has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the spring football festivities: from a family-friendly carnival to concerts, All-Sports Museum tours to reunions and, of course, sports galore. What was once just an afternoon preview of fall football has evolved into a three-day celebration of Penn State athletics and much more … resulting in record crowds for sports like softball and lacrosse.

Nittany Lion baseball and softball are both in town this weekend and both are probably looking forward to the home field advantage, after some tough Easter weekend road trips.

Medlar Field at Lebrano Park gives baseball fans the feel of the pros while enjoying college baseball. The 21-13 Nittany Lions host evening games against Northwestern Friday and Saturday, followed by a Sunday matinee.

Altoona grad Christian Helsel, a senior infielder, has started all 34 games this season, and is batting .233 with 17 RBIs.

While the Lions have struggled with injuries and some inexperience, they have enjoyed some promising moments. A Blue-White weekend crowd might get to see them turn the corner.

The PSU softball team has played only five of its first 20 games at home so far and come back to Happy Valley smarting from a three-game sweep at Nebraska.

After a doubleheader Wednesday against Bucknell, the Lions will host a conference series against Rutgers, including a Saturday post-football start. (Local softball fans should also circle April 26 on the calendar, when Penn State hosts a doubleheader against the history-making Saint Francis Red Flash.)

An EIVA volleyball title will be on the line Saturday evening, if Penn State can get past Princeton on Thursday. The winner will take on either Sacred Heart or Saint Francis for the championship and a ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Men’s lacrosse and women’s tennis are also home this weekend.

Perhaps the fastest-growing Blue-White tradition is the Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run, benefitting Special Olympics Pennsylvania.

Thousands are expected to participate in the eighth annual event, which includes 5K and 2-mile options. The highlight is the finish line inside Beaver Stadium, giving runners the chance to storm the field through the football tunnel, just like the Nittany Lions on game day.

This year’s fundraising goal is half-a-million dollars.

A celebration of spring and sport, and a chance to shine a spotlight on all athletics, the only thing that could put a damper on Penn State’s Blue-White weekend is the weather.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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