Saturday, June 13, 2009

Omaha on my mind

The College World Series - one of the great events in all of sports - starts today. Part county fair and part Final Four, it is a unique environment. Big-time but approachable (the teams enter through the same gate as the fans - imagine that occurring at a Final Four). Intense but ponderous. Unpredictable, but like the 1993 movie "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray, much is the same year after year in the friendly confines of Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, named after the former Omaha Mayor who served from 1954-61.

But the familiarity so many have grown accustomed to is going to disappear. The 2011 College World Series will be held in a new $130 million stadium in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. If this were the 1960's they might name it Fahey Field (after current Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey who pushed the construction of the new stadium) or even more appropriately Poppe Park after Dennis Poppe, a more than 30 year veteran of the NCAA, who has helped build the College World Series into an amazing event. Instead the games will be played at TD Ameritrade Park.

Progress can be a strange thing. This is the first time in five years I won't be in Omaha as my tenure on the NCAA Baseball committee has ended. But I continue to tell anyone and everyone who will listen that if they like college baseball or want to see one of the great sporting events in their lifetime, they must go to the College World Series. It is an event beyond compare. Remarkably consistent homespun excellence is its hallmark, in part because of the amazingly friendly, supportive and hospitable people of Omaha, in particular Jack Diesing Jr. (perhaps the park should have been Diesing Diamond), Kathryn Morrissey, Herb Hames and a host of others.

The College World Series is evolving and changing quickly. Just two years ago there was all kinds of controversy about blogging during College World Series games. Today such a discussion would seem almost silly. Even NCAA Baseball Committee Member and Louisiana-Monroe Athletic Director Bobby Staub is getting in on the blogging by Twittering from the games.

That pace of change will quicken for the College World Series. I'm sure the new stadium in Omaha will be beautiful - clean, shiny, and spacious. I'm looking forward to seeing it. But to really appreciate the new, you have to experience Rosenblatt Stadium - quirky tri-colored red, yellow and blue seating - hearing a vintage 1935 Hammond Organ - fans cheering the ballgirls when they catch a foul ball rolling off the screen behind home plate - amazing sunsets - Zestos milkshakes.

The baseball will remain high quality in TDA Park. And while the whole experience is ultimately about determining the NCAA Baseball champion, Rosenblatt Stadium is a shrine set on a hill. And its time is running out.

At most there are only 22 days and 34 games of college baseball left in Rosenblatt Stadium's history. Make the trip to Rosenblatt this year if you can. If you can't go this year, mark your calendar for June 19-30, 2010 and go next year. You won't regret it. Fifty years from now, will fans think of TDA Park the way many consider Rosenblatt Stadium today? That answer is TBD. But you can't force history or manufacture nostalgia. Progress can be a funny thing. Take advantage of the present while you can.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

TD Ameritrade Park? Are they serious? Don't they realize that so much of their event is its charm? I would love to be in some of the meetings people have when they make these kinds of decisions.

Anonymous said...

Don't they play this at the home field of the Royals' triple-A team? If they do, then what does that team care about charm? I'm sick of people who talk about baseball like it's still 1952.

Anonymous said...

Do they test college baseball players for steroids?

Anonymous said...

First of all, they're building two stadiums in Omaha, one for the Royals team and one just for the CWS. Get your facts straight.

Anonymous said...

Do you think baseball people are worried about their sport? Fewer American kids play it. Seems like the Major Leagues are in bad shape with the economic situation and PEDs and everything else. Are people supposed to believe that anything A-Roid does isn't tainted? What impact is this going to have on college baseball in 10 years?

Anonymous said...

You don't think every football player is juiced? Nobody cares, because football can do no wrong.

Anonymous said...

The thing about the College World Series is that no lead is safe. The aluminum bats make everything a joke. There worse then steroids.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog. Keep it going. I like the post on the CWS and ones like this more then the stuff about colleges who say they have no money.