Fans of all ages drawn to College World Series
The 24,000 fans who flock to nearly every game at TD Ameritrade Park in baseball-happy Omaha come to see quality play from college athletes. It’s the annual College World Series, staged every year since 1950 in laid-back Omaha.
Seven-year-olds want autographs and baseballs gifted to them by the players on the eight teams entered in the 10-day, double elimination tournament.
Twelve-year-olds sometimes swoon over the players or watch them and dream of themselves being on the same manicured diamond some day.
Eighteen-year-olds come to the games to be seen, to smile shyly at any player who might glance their way and to judge the character of each coach of a school where they might want to play.
Thirty-year-olds like being in an atmosphere where winning isn’t necessarily everything and the night air feels good after a long day at the office.
Fifty-year-olds see the hustle and caring of the players, and also know some of the athletes will be in the major leagues in due time.
Seventy-year-olds remember the years when Texas, Southern California or Miami were at now-gone Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, where the College World Series was played from 1950 until just a few years ago. Rosenblatt is now a parking lot for an Omaha zoo.
The 2018 tournament began last Saturday and is supposed to be completed on Tuesday or Wednesday. Midwest weather could deliver a different timetable to tournament organizers.
Florida is the defending national champion and has qualified for the World Series seven times in the last nine seasons. This will be the 36th trip to Omaha for Texas, which cast aside coach Augie Garrido in 2016 after a losing season. Garrido was 77 and had won more games than any coach in collegiate history. Texas coach David Pierce is in his second season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament (but not the World Series) last season as well.
This will be Washington’s first-ever appearance in the World Series. Texas Tech had 11 players selected in the first 30 rounds of the just-completed draft of amateur players.
Oregon State, from the Great Northwest, won national championships in both 2006 and 2007. The Beavers are a team that doesn’t often beat itself with defensive mistakes or pitchers offering little more than walks, hit batsmen or wild pitches.
North Carolina is the lone representative from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Arkansas started the tournament last weekend with a pitcher who showed a 12-0 record. During the regular season, Arkansas swept three-game series from both Florida and Mississippi State of their own SEC.
The Bulldogs of Mississippi State were given an interim coach, Gary Henderson, just days before the season started. The team responded by showing a 14-15 record in its first 29 games.
After losing a 20-10 decision to Oklahoma in its first Regional game in Tallahassee, the Bulldogs, trailing 2-0 against host Florida State in the ninth inning of an elimination game, saw Elijah MacNamee slug a three-run home run on a 3-2 pitch to rescue the season.
In the Super Regional, it took a win in the third and deciding game to get the irrepressible Bulldogs to Omaha. Florida and Washington also had to win third games of best-two-of-three series in Super Regionals to come to the Land of the Missouri River and Council Bluffs, Iowa, just across that river.
TD Ameritrade Park has the club level seats Rosenblatt couldn’t provide. And it has fans of all ages crowding back into its roomy seats to enjoy another College World Series.