Charlie, Mel, and Jim have been coming to Omaha for the College World Series every year for the past twenty-eight years. A close friend has joined them every year except this one, and he's only missing this weekend because his son gets married today.
When they began their yearly tradition, it wasn't tied to college allegiance. All four went to the University of Michigan. They all live in Ann Arbor, and Michigan hasn't made the CWS during the 28 years they've been attending games. They've only seen one Big Ten team play during all that time (Indiana in 2013). For Charlie and crew, it's not about seeing teams for whom they cheer. It's about tradition, and isn't that baseball?
This group gets together every single year for love of the game. They book hotel rooms for next year the day after each CWS ends. It's because of the experience and the camaraderie. To me, it is remarkable. Charlie turns seventy next month, and I hope that when I'm seventy years old I have traditions as fantastic as his.
When I sat next to Charlie on the flight from Detroit to Omaha yesterday, we talked about a lot of things: where I should go get drinks, how the stadium differs from Rosenblatt (a lot of people don't like the changes, but Charlie admits that he prefers TD Ameritrade's amenities), and how watching groups of teams as an uninvested fan every year can play with your emotions.
You see, Charlie doesn't follow college baseball very much during the season. He doesn't enter with a tabla rasa, but his only real feelings are based on the teams he has seen in the past. He talked about the duality of that situation. He sees players make huge plays, going on runs to lift their teams through games against the toughest competition in the country. He grows to appreciate these players and then realizes he may never see them play again. Years later, he says that he often sees players in Major League Baseball and thinks he remembers seeing them play in the College World Series, but he isn't always sure.
Because as much as baseball is about tradition and consistency, the College World Series is about who gets hot at the end of the year and whose team is just so good that they don't need to get lucky. Charlie won't see a majority of these players ever again in person, but instead of making it superfluous, I personally think that makes it all the more interesting for uninvested fans. Each year has its own stories. Each year has its own unexpected heroes. And going there with the intention of simply enjoying good baseball lets those fans never have to deal with defeat. They can simply appreciate the sport for what it is.
My Plans for the Weekend
Today, I'm going to try to see the UC-Irvine vs. Texas game at noon and the Vanderbilt vs. Louisville game at seven. Ivory Tower, Smeargle, and EtOH get here sometime mid afternoon to early evening. I'm still looking for restaurant suggestions if any of you have some.
We'll be heading to a bar tonight, and I'm leaning towards Upstream Brewing Company (Charlie's recommendation), but I'm open to other suggestions. Upstream has a good late night menu, and it's only a mile from the stadium.
The rest of the day will likely be spent going around Omaha's downtown area, since I've never been here.
Tomorrow, I think I'm only going to the Ole Miss game. We'll be tailgating all day, so I'm not sure I'll want to leave to see TCU vs. Texas Tech.
Be sure to follow me at @JucoRCR to keep up with where we are and what we see all weekend.
Tweet of the Night
Average ticket price on Stubhub for Ole Miss vs UVA is over $600, making it the most expensive opening round ticket in CWS history. #Olemaha— Kyle Cole (@TheRealKyleCole) June 13, 2014
Yeah. Ole Miss fans were preeeeetty excited about making the trip.
Tweet Us Your Pictures!
We're going to do these Red Cup in The Morning blog posts Sunday and Monday as well. Tweet @RedCupRebellion or @JucoRCR, and you may see your pictures in Omaha in those recaps.