Literal Road To Omaha Gets Going

Editor's Note: Friend of BA Kirk Kenney, our former Stephen Strasburg correspondent (we're only half-kidding), will be contributing to our College World Series coverage and is on his own Road to Omaha . . .

SAN DIEGO — My wife says I need to stop taking things so literally.

Good luck with that.

They call it “The Road to Omaha” for a reason. Who am I to question it? So I pack a bag and put it in the 4Runner with some other provisions, top off the tank and hit the highway. According to Yahoo maps, it’s 1,599 miles from my driveway to the parking lot at Rosenblatt Stadium.

This is my ninth trip in 10 years (I stayed home in 2008 to watch Tiger Woods win the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which cut 1,585 miles off my drive). Leaving Thursday morning will get me to Omaha in plenty of time to see Saturday’s opening game between Texas Christian and Florida State. After the Horned Frogs knocked off New Mexico here three weeks ago at Tony Gwynn Stadium to win the Mountain West Conference tournament, I told TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle I’d see him in Omaha. I’m a man of my word.

Some people ask how anyone can drive such a distance and not get sleepy, bored or both. For me, the open road is quite invigorating. Plenty of sights to see. And this year there’s plenty to listen to on XM Radio as I cross California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado on the way to the eastern edge of Nebraska. The U.S. Open begins on Thursday morning. The Lakers and Celtics play Game Seven of the NBA finals on Thursday night. In between there’s any ballgame I want. And, if I find myself in a moment of desperation with nothing else on, I can listen to the World Cup. Friday will be more U.S. Open. I should be pulling into Omaha just as Stephen Strasburg wraps up his third major league start against the White Sox.

When I turn down the radio, there will be opportunities to consider what will transpire over the next two weeks. It’s ripe for a new storyline as we say so long to Rosenblatt. Arizona State is the only team from last year’s field to make it back this season. The Sun Devils, with five national championships, also are the only school with a national reputation. Even so, their last title came 29 years ago. Oklahoma, with two titles, is the only other school among the eight that has won here, although that was 16 years ago now. Florida State (in its 20th appearance), Clemson (12th) and South Carolina (ninth) are perennial bridesmaids, with eight second-place finishes among them. Florida finished runner-up to Texas in 2005. TCU is a newcomer. UCLA, which is winless in two appearances, may as well be. The drive to the championship should be pretty exciting.

Speaking of driving, I looked up the distance for each of this year’s teams to get to Omaha:
Oklahoma — 478 miles
TCU — 663 miles
Clemson —1,101 miles
South Carolina — 1,185 miles
Florida State — 1,237 miles
Florida — 1,322 miles
Arizona State — 1,367 miles
UCLA — 1,570 miles

Tell UCLA coach John Savage I’ll keep an eye out for the Bruins’ bandwagon.