CWS: The Best of Omaha

After a week in this midwest baseball paradise, it's always fun to look back and see what was good and bad about the College World Series, the atmosphere and the city of Omaha itself. So as I like to do at the end of every CWS, here are a few observations I made while there.

So until the next 355 days pass as quickly as possible...

Enjoy.

- Best aspect of this year's College World Series:
The New Blood.
You know it's strange when Rice is considered the "old guard" of the CWS field. Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald wrote a column this past week about how he misses the old school teams: LSU, Florida State, Miami, Texas, Stanford, etc. Me? Hell no, I don't miss those teams! I like the spread of college baseball. I like teams with names like Beavers, Anteaters, Owls and Tar Heels. That's fun. And these aren't all big-money schools too. So you've got to like the anti-corporate feel with these guys.

- Best game:
Arizona State - 7
UC Irvine - 8 (10inns)
With the crowd chanting, "Ollie, Ollie, Ollie" the Anteater center fielder sliced the game-winning single through the right side of the Devils defense. I told Carter Blackburn in our nightly video recap that I hadn't heard people chanting that name so excitedly since Muhammad was boxing. UCI overcame a 7-3 deficit in the 8th to win. Unreal.

- Best players to watch:
Oregon State's double-play combo of SS Darwin Barney and 2B Joey Wong.
These guys provided highlight reel plays on defense. And Barney was the Good Humor man in the dugout and on the basepaths. He was seen talking and smiling out in the field, in the dugout and even to players on the other teams when they were on base. Just a fun player to watch, especially when we live in such an "angry" world.

- Best pitching performance:
Luke Putkonen, UNC, against Louisville.
With the bats of the Cardinals bringing gorilla ball back into vogue in their first two games, Putkonen calmly went out and threw 7.0 innings of three-hit ball to squelch that UofL power game. The 3-1 loss ended up sending Louisville packing for the week.

- Best Over-achieving team:
Oregon State.
Well that was obvious. But keep in mind, this was a No. 3 seeded team in the NCAA tournament. That's the equivalent of a No. 9-12 seed in the basketball tournament winning it all. Can you imagine that?

- Worst under-achieving team:
Mississippi State.
Once again, the SEC has a team go 0-2 in Omaha. If you're keeping score at home, that's six of the last 10 teams that have gone 0-2 have been from the big money conference.

- Best re-occuring theme:
A non-national seed wins the title again.
This marks the fourth year in a row that a team that wasn't one of the eight national seeds has won the national championship. That's pretty remarkable.

- Hardest worker:
The ESPN remote camera guy.
This dude was on warp speed all over the stadium all week long. Not only does he have to sprint all over the place, but has to lug this 35-pound camera with him. And yes, even in the 90+ degree temperatures. I give him all kinds of props. His camera vantage points were bitchin' too.

ESPNcameraGuy.jpg
(like the Energizer bunny, this guy never stopped going all week)


- Best place to hang out between games:
The 'Eater Nation house.
C'mon, tell the truth. When's the next time in your life you'll be able to tell somebody that you got to hang out at the 'Eater Nation house? Plus, it's about time somebody other than those Fullerton people had a house to hang at across the street from the stadium.

- Second best place to hang out between games:
The Stadium View Card Shop.
Not only can you check out the numerous vintage College World Series programs, Sports Illustrateds and various memorabilia, but the owner is proud to point out that they've handed out "over 11,000 free beers" over the years that they've been in business. That's a cool thing man.

- Best stadium concession:
Omaha Steaks' steak sandwich.
Still the best. But with Runza making its triumphant return to the Rosenblatt fare, the Omaha Steaks garb doesn't win by much.

- Best way to describe the weather:
Satan's cauldron.
For the third year in a row, it was mostly temperatures in the 90s and few clouds of relief in Omaha. Where did the weather of 2004 go? (Hottest day that year? 83 degrees. Ahhhh.)

- Best Beer Garden:
D.J.s Dugout.
Once again, this joint wins without any competition. Cold, cold air conditioning inside, free peanuts and, of course, cold beer. It could NOT be beaten.

- Best New Rosenblatt Feature:
No in-between inning commercials on the video board.
I don't know if you recall, but the last few years, they've been showing commericials on the video board (at Who concert sound levels too). But this year, we were lucky not to be subjected to a barrage of NCAA promos, YES program spots and participating school recruitment commercials. I think we can all say thankyouveramuch.

- Worst New Rosenblatt Feature:
The new seats in sections O and P:
Look at the picture below and notice how the seats in the foreground (those are in section N) fold up and make for plenty of walking space when you have to get up to get concessions. But in the "new" seats they put in, notice that they're just benches without the ability to fold up. So when someone in your row has to go past you, you have to stand up on your seat to give the people walking by enough space to walk past. Not good thinking there people.

BadSeats.jpg
(if you had to sit in these bench seats, your first thought might be "maybe they should raze this joint")

- Best school mascot:
Louisville's "Louie"
This was the only mascot that actually made the trip. In fact, I can't even remember the last time a school had a mascot there in Omaha. Perhaps since the Miami Maniac back in the late 80s. But for some reason, the Maniac was barred from Rosenblatt back at that time. Anyone recall why?

- Biggest off-field issue:
The stadium situation.
First we heard about the possibility of a new downtown stadium. Then I heard definitive proof that the new stadium was going to happen and the zoo would take over the space that Rosenblatt occupies in order to build a world-class panda exhibit. Then we hear from the NCAA's Dennis Poppe that temporary seats proposed for the new stadium "is not the direction we want to go." So NOW what? Politicians getting involved?... THAT ensures disaster ahead.

- Biggest on-field issue:
Hit batsmen.
Something is definitely going to change about this rule. It got ridiculous this week.

- Best post-game quote:
Wayne Graham, after Rice was eliminated by North Carolina. "I told my players not to worry about it, they're not going to fire me."

- Most over-used expression in Omaha:
"I've gotta tip my hat to..."
Almost every press conference saw coaches and players use and re-use this trite expression. Seems like a copy-cat thing. Make it stop, please!

- The 9th-best team in Omaha:
LSU.
Why? Here's an all-LSU transfers team from the players that were in Rosenblatt this week...
- Jason Ogata, inf/DH, Oregon State.
- Jared Bogany, OF, Arizona State
- Derek Olvey, P, Arizona State
- Bryan Harris, P, Cal State Fullerton
- J.P. Padron, 3B, Rice

- Best part about Omaha besides the wicked steaks:
The gas prices.
I filled my rent-a-heap up with $2.79 regular unleaded. Two-freakin-seventy-nine! When did gasoline become half-price?! (I pay somewhere in the $3.40-3.60 range in L.A.)

- Best food other than steak in Omaha:
Sortino's Pizza.
Even though Godfather's originated in Omaha, Sortino's was the best pizza when I lived here as a kid and it's still the best pizza I've had as an adult (it's on L street, near 84th).

- Worst pet peeve:
The name "Men's" College World Series.
Do they have to put the word "men's" in there? I know, the girls use the same CWS name in their softball tournament, but A) it's softball, not baseball, and B) the men used the name first. Get your own name thieves.

- Best outfield "beach ball" of the week:
The blow-up doll.
See below.

BlowUpDoll.jpg
(he's got a companion for the night)

Comments

I know cstv can not be everywhere, but it seems to be Div I tv. Why is there so little coverage on juco DII and DIII? I am a baseball nut and my son plays for a juco. A very good baseball juco that transfers players every year to (DI) schools. There are many players in MLB that were juco players. In fact the (DI) schools prefer juco transfers because of the amount of time they get at the plate and the playing time they get on the field. Alot of us would like to know why cstv does not cover juco sports? Thanks loyal viewer.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert