There are few things in the sports world that I truly get excited for. I don’t ever get jacked up for the Super Bowl, I could care less the NBA playoffs are going on right now and the BCS championship doesn’t cause me to clear my schedule.
However, the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. is an event that has turned from “must see TV” to must “must attend and cover”.
Growing up in Nebraska, the CWS was always a sports event as a youngster that you heard about but never really fully embraced. I can remember our neighbor, who helped my dad coach our youth baseball teams, coming back from the CWS with “new drills” he saw during warmups and practices.
Living on a farm we didn’t have cable but we were blessed with one of those GIANT satellite dishes that likely could’ve started a cable company for our neighbors. That’s where I saw my first CWS game. If memory serves it was G5/9 (Satellite G5 channel 9 for those of you unfamiliar with having to rotate the dish to get your channels in).
I never got to attend a CWS game until I got to college. My roommate’s family had tickets to every CWS game (and still do for that matter) and I was lucky enough my freshman year of college to be around for one of the rare games when his family was not using all of their tickets.
I can’t remember the first teams I saw play and I don’t think that makes me any less of a fan nor does it make my experience any less significant than one of those people with a photogenic memory who could recite from memory the entire scorer’s book from their first game. (Trust me, there are people that can. I’ve met them.)
The atmosphere, the energy, the crowd, the vendors, the people with tents in their front yards… I was hooked. Just from watching on TV I knew I’d really enjoy being at the CWS. But I had no idea what that feeling would be like. It wasn’t the same feeling I had going to Nebraska football games growing up and it wasn’t the feeling I got going to KC Royals games.
This was a feeling of ownership. Like somehow by attending the CWS that part of it had become mine. I think that’s why people from Nebraska and Iowa love the event so much. They helped build it into what it has become and in return it was now “theirs”.
Ever since that first game I’ve made it as part of an annual summer tradition. When I graduated college I was lucky enough to work with the Creative Sports Network and actually broadcast some of the games leading into the CWS. I was asked to broadcast a few games that year as well, but actually had a prior commitment that prevented me from doing it. In the years following, I’ve continued to cover the CWS as a freelance journalist for various organizations.
But nothing beats the experience as a fan. Sure there were detractors that didn’t want to see the game moved from Rosenblatt to TD Ameritrade Park and I get the argument. The “homey” feeling of Rosenblatt cannot be duplicated by any other venue in the world. Honestly the closest was probably the NAIA WS in Lewiston, Idaho and I don’t just say that as the guy who covers the NAIA as his main beat.
The new venue has grown the CWS and allowed more fans to experience what really is the greatest show on dirt. (Someone should copyright that…) Whether it’s the new slough of bars in the area, the kids play area or the general sites of Omaha there truly is something for everyone at the CWS.
Match ups this year are interesting to say the least. The first game on Saturday is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. (CT), with UC Irvine playing against Texas. Saturday’s second game will have Louisville against Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. (CT). The doubleheader on Sunday features Texas Tech vs. TCU at 2 p.m. (CT) and in the evening game starting at 7 p.m. (CT), Virginia will take on Ole Miss.
The obviously storyline I am following is the return of Auggie Garrido to Omaha with Texas. I’ve always liked the way Auggie has coached his teams and embraced the CWS but after seeing the documentary about him a few years ago, how can you not love this guy. (Exhibit A – NSFW Language)
UC Irvine will obviously be the team the locals get behind. Omahans love the underdog and generally open their arms to anyone new who comes to the CWS. Plus the number of “Anteater” hats that have already been purchased from Lids in the last 20 years is probably immeasurable. Right next to those “Jimmies” and “Slippery Rock” hats.
TCU and Vandy have tradition on their side and Virginia also falls into that category with the only difference being how Omaha seems to embrace the first two a little more.
The rest of the field will have their fans and obviously will win new fans in Omaha over the next two weeks because that’s what the CWS is about. Everyone gets cheered on and everyone is loved at the CWS because once you are there you realize that while the teams and venue have changed, the sense of ownership remains the same as the first time you walked through the gates.
I’ll be covering the CWS again this year. Follow my blog, twitter or whatever for updates. Those are all linked to this article.