'COVID does not exist in Knoxville,' Vanderbilt baseball's Tim Corbin says of lively Tennessee crowd

Adam Sparks
Nashville Tennessean

Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin quipped that "COVID does not exist in Knoxville" while praising Tennessee's home-crowd atmosphere after Sunday's game.

The two teams played amid lively crowds for all three games of the series. UT fans were loud and not socially distanced throughout Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

After No. 2 Vanderbilt won 10-4 Sunday over the No. 3 Vols to take the series 2-to-1, Corbin praised both UT fans for the tough road atmosphere and his team for overcoming it.

"This environment here, I don’t know what we’re doing in Nashville, but there aren’t many empty seats (at UT) now," Corbin said. "Let me just tell you, COVID does not exist in Knoxville. There are a lot of people here having a good time, and sometimes at our expense.

"We just needed to do our part to play baseball. They created a very good environment here for baseball, and I credit them."

GAME COVERAGE:Vanderbilt baseball bounces back to beat Tennessee 10-4 and claim series in Knoxville

In a text message later Sunday, Corbin reiterated he was praising the orange-clad fans who filled more than half of Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"They showed up to support their team, pure and simple," Corbin said. "They were passionate, and you could feel them."

Tennessee's Liam Spence during a game against Vanderbilt on Sunday, April 18, 2021, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Vanderbilt athletics director wants to get back to 'normal'

Lindsey Nelson Stadium has a capacity of 4,283, according to the official UT website. Announced attendance figures were 2,390 Friday, 2,263 Saturday and 2,450 Sunday.

UT has had limited capacity for home games all season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has increased the number of available tickets to each home series. About 50% was expected for the Vanderbilt series, and announced attendance figures reflected that.

Vanderbilt has had a more restrictive attendance policy in following Metro Nashville guidelines, which increased Friday from from 33% to 40% capacity for outdoor arenas.

"Like Coach Corbin, I'm eager to get back to 'normal' and fill our stands at Hawkins Field. We also understand that the dynamics in each metropolitan area are unique and the pandemic is ongoing," athletics director Candice Lee said in a statement.

"Local conditions continue to determine protocols, such as our venue capacity. We cannot exceed the capacity limits set by our partners at Metro Public Health," Lee continued. "We are in constant communication with them and have increased attendance only when permitted."

Capacity to increase at Vanderbilt games this week

Last weekend, Vanderbilt's home series against Georgia drew announced crowds of 646, 670 and 637 for the three games at Hawkins Field. But Lee said capacity will increase to about 40% for Vanderbilt home games this week in accordance with Metro guidelines.

The Commodores will host Austin Peay at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and then No. 4 Mississippi State on April 23-25.

"The good news is that the limit has increased, and we will adjust starting this week. We are allowing as many fans as the established venue limitations allow," Lee said. "Thank you for your unending support of our student-athletes, especially during such a unique time."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawkins Field had a capacity of 3,700 and routinely hosted sellout crowds for home games. Vanderbilt spokesperson Alan George said the capacity was 710 for recent games.

However, Vanderbilt must also abide by a 6-foot social-distancing guideline, which can hinder it from reaching allowed percentages because of a lack of space.

Vanderbilt is technically the defending national champion because it won the 2019 NCAA title and the 2020 season was canceled over COVID-19. Many players on its young roster have never played a home game in front of a sellout crowd.

"I just want people to watch our kids play before they leave this university, and I want our players to be able to play in front of Vanderbilt fans," Corbin said. "That was a very intense environment this past weekend, and it was made possible by two very good teams and a very passionate fan base."

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