There's a compelling duality surrounding TD Ameritrade Park's size. It's full of people, but most of them don't really care about the game. That's not to say they aren't watching. They simply don't have any skin in the game. So while 27,000 fans may sound daunting, it isn't. Not enough fans get loud at any one moment to be imposing at all. Ole Miss has already played in its most hostile environment of the postseason, and they won a super regional there.
Huge plays happen, and people clap or cheer, but any organized cheers simply aren't known by enough of the crowd, so they die off pretty quickly.
The locals are wonderful people though. They're always quick to ask here you're from and offer up some piece of advice you wouldn't otherwise know about the area. "Park on the street. The lots are a ripoff." "The best restaurants are that direction. The part of the city in the direction everybody walked after the first game is really just office buildings." "I think Ole Miss is going to be the local favorite this weekend." "Texas sucks" (more on that in a bit).
Being here has been a great time so far. Kind people, good baseball, and liquor are a recipe for success, but there's more to it than that. Everyone's laid back, and any negative cheers in the stands are incredible good-natured... unless they're said against Texas.
Game 1 - UC-Irvine 3 - Texas 1
Texas brought tons of fans. Easily the most so far for any one school. They were at the game, and they were loud-ish (as I mentioned, it's tough to get too loud in TD Ameritrade).
But people in Omaha want Texas to lose. They always want Texas to lose, regardless of who Texas is playing.
We heard from several people here who told us they're kind of sick of Texas. Obviously, when you've been to Omaha as many times as Texas has, you have a lot of opportunities to make a bad impression. Apparently that has happened through the years.
So these two things - Texas' sheer number of fans and the fact that most locals don't like them - resulted in a very clear divide yesterday afternoon. When Texas did good things, a third of the grandstands cheered and threw up the hook 'em horns hand symbol. When UC-Irvine scored, a different third of the stadium went crazy, yelling such things as "Tuck Fexas."
The game itself was fantastic even though it looked like the game was going to be boring early. Texas' first two batters reached on walks, with UC-Irvine's starting pitcher, Andrew Morales, throwing eight balls and one strike. After a mound visit, Morales got out of the inning. The next inning, Morales allowed two baserunners again but only surrendered one run.
And so it continued. The two teams traded several innings where runners would get on base but the pitchers would battle out of it. It looked like the final score might be 1-0 despite a multitude of runners getting on base. Then, in the top of the eighth, UC-Irvine exploded for three runs, stringing together a single, a triple, and two more singles.
Texas had no answer, and the locals were very happy.
We walked in the wrong direction, of course. We walked a long way looking for food and were about to give up and head to Jimmy John's when we saw a sign for Sullivan's Steakhouse. We had both talked about getting steak while we are up here, so we decided to go in if they would have us (wearing shorts and casual shirts). They did, so we sat down and looked at the menu.
I quickly determined I would need to order off the bar menu, as entrees were generally around 30-40 dollars. I hear the filets and other great cuts are phenomenal there, but I can't verify that. We had some well-prepared sirloin and a beer that was too expensive (that's a running theme here... six dollar beers that aren't unique).
Now begins the part many of you who read my article yesterday aren't going to believe. That's fine. You don't have to believe me.
As we were wrapping up our meal, I heard someone saying, "those guys over there are from Mississippi." Assuming we were going to hear someone from Virginia talk some good-natured trash, I turned to see who it was. It was Charlie.
Yes. Charlie, Mel, and Jim were sitting next to us. E4 Button can back me up. This actually happened. They told a clever story about a friend who isn't invited back anymore because he can't appreciate good things, having ordered a chicken sandwich at one of the best burger places they'd ever seen and a Coors Light at a bar with 101 drafts among other transgressions. I got the feeling they'd fit right in as Ole Miss alums. If there's one thing we do particularly well, it's make fun of the unrefined.
We talked to them more about past trips, the stories by which I can't do justice. They were hilarious when Jim was talking about them, but when I type them out, it's just not the same. Suffice it to say, at one point, someone with them didn't poop for five days and it was a disaster. Poop stories; they're great.
Game 2 - Vanderbilt 5 - Louisville 3
The locals didn't really care who won this game, so the cheering was pretty sparse. There was a pocket of Vanderbilt fans near me, and ESPN's camera was fixed on that area all game. If it looked like the stadium was still pretty full later in the game, that was smoke and mirrors. At least half of the stadium was empty by the seventh, and it was probably even more than that.
One thing Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin did that I found silly, but some people thought was smart, he "started" the next day's starting pitcher in the designated hitter spot. A Vanderbilt fan near us explained that it's a trick in order to not "give away" who he will actually hit there. Once the pitcher would actually have to hit (Vanderbilt had their DH slotted at eighth), they pinch hit for him. This method doesn't give away the lefty-righty matchup or tell them ahead of time how to pitch that spot. Sounds like a lot of overthinking things to me, but whatever... no big deal.
Vanderbilt got out in front of Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser, who was not throwing his best stuff early. Funkhouser gave up three earned runs in the second inning, walking batters and leaving balls up high in the strike zone.
Louisville managed to get within striking distance in the seventh, trailing just 3-4, but Vanderbilt scored an insurance run in the bottom of the inning and got out of the game winning 5-3.
We couldn't really figure out who we were cheering for all game and ended up just applauding good plays, of which there were many.
Our Plans for Today
We're going to be tailgating all day in a lot somewhere. EtOH is securing our spot as I type this. I don't know where it is, but if you see a group of people drinking bourbon and playing either a stupid drinking game I came up with last night or a stupid handball game EtOH bought, assume that's us. We'll tweet out more specifics when we know them.
After the game, we're heading to Upstream Brewing Company. If you're cool, you'll join us there. If not, you'll probably be lame like we were last night. That's fine. Everyone need their sleep sometimes.
Tweet of the Day
Our own Errol Robinson caught a foul ball in the night game while sitting in the stands eating nachos. He didn't miss a beat, continuing to consume nachos as soon as he caught it. He looks so happy in that photo. Good to see the team enjoying their time here.
Picture of the Day
So we didn't really get any submissions from fans who were actually in Omaha, but here's an interesting photo taken by Jack Peglow of RockMNation. He attended an Ole Miss wedding in which the groom was a former pole vaulter at Ole Miss.
Here was the groom's cake:
TWEET US YOUR PICTURES! We only got a few submissions, and none of them were from Omaha. Let's change that today. Tweet us at @RedCupRebellion or @JucoRCR, and you might see your picture here tomorrow.