1998 'Comeback Cats' sign commemorative Maker's Mark bottles
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky fans filled Keeneland early Friday morning, hoping to get signatures for this year's commemorative Maker's Mark bottles.
The bottle is dedicated to the 1997-1998 men's basketball national championship team, the "Comeback Cats." Bottle signers included Coach Tubby Smith, Cameron Mills, Jeff Sheppard and Scott Padgett, among others.
"It's good to be a part of this with the '98 team," Smith said. "A lot of these guys I haven't seen in a long time so it's a special time. I think this shows the appreciation the fans have for Kentucky basketball."
Fans started camping out as early as Thursday night to claim their spot. This year, fans ordered tickets in advance to earn their place in the long line.
Padgett, a power forward on the '97-'98 team, said he was shocked by how many people camped out the night before.
"I didn't think people would be lined up outside yesterday when we came for the private signing," Padgett said. "Kentucky fans are definitely committed and as passionate about basketball as anybody."
Bethie Atkins and her family were first in line this year. She said they come every year, but this year was a little more special.
"This is really special because my dad was on the 101 committee and this was his favorite coach," Atkins said, adding that she did get a picture with Smith during the signing.
Joann Clark said her and her husband have been camping out at Keeneland since the commemorative bottles started 22 years ago.
"You don't want to miss a bottle so you come back next year in order to get the next one," Clark said.
This year is the fourth for the series of commemorative bottles. Proceeds from the bottles benefit the UK Athletics Association's Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (CATS), which serves student-athletes on UK varsity sports teams.