College World Series Well Worth Putting On Your Baseball Bucket List
OMAHA, Neb.—It’s taken me many, many years to get here, but my dream of seeing a College World Series in person has happened.
And reality has lived up to the dream.
I’ve long wanted to go to the College World Series. Bad timing on my birthdate meant I missed getting to Omaha as a college student by one year. (I covered Georgia baseball from 1991-1994, but they went and won the whole thing in 1990). Since joining Baseball America, I’ve always enjoyed the CWS from home on my TV while a steady progression of Baseball America staffers—Will Kimmey, Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, John Manuel, Teddy Cahill and Michael Lananna—made the trip.
The crowds are just as excited and loud as I had hoped, especially in the sun-broiled bleachers. The players are just as fired up. The Omaha natives are just as friendly as expected. And yes, Nebraska in mid-June is hot enough to melt asphalt when the random, pop-up thunderstorm isn’t blowing through.
In many ways it’s as expected. But I couldn’t fully understand what the wind does in this ballpark until I felt that gale that knocks down balls game after game (and seems to always be blowing in).
I also couldn’t fully understand until I got here how this event is both a very big deal and a hidden gem, all at the same time.
Every game and every pitch carries weight. I knew that from watching the CWS on TV for a couple of decades now. But being here, it still feels like everyone involved is in on a really, really good secret—we’re all at the great local restaurant that hasn’t been fully discovered yet.
There are those of us who cover college baseball year-round here, the local Omaha media and the media covering the various teams. But other than that, there’s very little national media here.
But the fans from the various teams know. They are here in large numbers enjoying a party that brings with is some impressive tailgating. What’s also notable is how fans from teams that aren’t even here still make the trip. The number of fans wearing Louisiana State purple who you can find in the stands is pretty remarkable.
Looking out over TD Ameritrade, I can’t help but be happy. I’ve been fortunate enough to check off many items from a baseball bucket list. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been to the World Series, the World Baseball Classic and I’ve seen a teenage Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit and a teenage Vladimir Guerrero Sr. hit. Working for a baseball magazine means I’ve gotten to attend games at the baseball cathedrals of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium, as well as some of the newest parks as well. I’ve been to no-hitters and I’ve seen cycles.
Getting to Omaha is a much-desired bucket list item off my list. Now, I can’t wait to get back next year.
Here’s a proposed baseball fan bucket list. Any bucket list should be biased towards one’s own fascinations, so feel free to Tweet to me @jjcoop36 your suggestions.
1. World Series game. It’s an obvious one. What’s better than to see a baseball game on baseball’s biggest stage. Take it to the next level: See your team in the World Series or get lucky enough to see a do-or-die Game 7.
2. All-Star Game. All (or most all) of baseball’s best on one field for one night. Take it to the next level: See an all-star game in your favorite ballpark, which may require some patience and longevity.
3. Baseball Cathedrals. See a game at a Fenway Park or Wrigley Field to experience baseball at a spot where Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams or Babe Ruth once trod. Take it to the next level: See games at Fenway, Wrigley and Dodger Stadium to see games at the three oldest parks in MLB.
4. Futures Game. I know a lot of people won’t have this high on their list, but they are allowed to be wrong. The all-star game lets you see the best current players in the majors on one field at one time. The Futures Game allows you to see some of the best players of the next decade together.
5. College World Series game. It manages to both have a college atmosphere with tailgating, fired-up fan bases and teams that are both intense and goofballs at the same time. But it also is a big, multi-week event that ends in baseball’s best dogpile.
6. Float in Frisco’s Lazy River, or watch a hitter Hit The Bull. This one is open to plenty of personal interpretation. Go to a great minor league stadium. There are a wide variety of options. You can see a crazy hot dog vendor or watch a bat dog or a bat pig.
7. Nippon Professional Baseball. I’ve yet to have the joy of experiencing this, but from everyone I know who has been fortunate enough to see a Japan League game, the experience is both familiar (it’s baseball) and wonderfully different at the same time. The fan bases are load. The cheers are both unique and well planned and the talent is impressive.
8. Attend a winter league rivalry. NPB games may be intense, but a Liga Dominicana game is another level of passion and intensity. That’s been apparent just watching some of them on TV. One day, I’d love to see it in person.
9. Attend a Hall of Fame induction. I don’t really care who the players being inducted are, I just want to one time be there in Cooperstown when some players' biggest dreams come true.
10. Make it to Williamsport for the Little League World Series. This one is more because those who have been promise that I have to experience it. Kids playing a kids game on a kid-sized big stage.
11. Attend a midnight sun game. OK, two birds, one stone. It would be great to go to Alaska (especially at a time of year where it’s not negative 20 degrees). And it would be great to see the Alaska Goldpanners celebrate the arrival of summer by playing a night game in the day—the game starts between 10 and 10:30 p.m at night and carries on into the early morning as the sun tracks low on the horizon but never fully goes away. I’ve been fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your perspective) to cover a softball tournament where teams played on through the night. But that has nothing on the Midnight Sun game.