This was my 11th trip to Omaha for the College World Series.
Some of the stuff you do is routine. You can eat at routinely good steak restaurants that are also incredibly cheap.
A nice touch in Omaha is ordering a steak, getting the usual baked potato and salad, and for lagniappe the pasta with the tasty red gravy.
You understand that if you want to wait in line for the outfield bleachers, the lines are long. Last Sunday, the line for the bleachers was several dozen deep at 8:50 in the morning. The game didn’t start until 1 p.m.
What is also routine is the incredible efficiency of the Midwest. The lines at the concession stands don’t last long. The bathrooms are clean. The security guards and stadium personnel see your media credential and thank you for coming.
The first time that happened to me was in 1984 at Rosenblatt Stadium. I had to do a double take.
And, what’s now routine is the affection the people of Omaha show for the LSU Tigers and their fans. It was on display last Saturday for LSU’s game against Florida State.
“That was something last night, wasn’t it?” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “I saw 25,000 was the attendance? 22,000 were rooting for the Tigers.”
He wasn’t exaggerating.
One of the nicest churches in Omaha is St. Frances Cabrini Church on 10th Street. As I sat in my pew, a man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said he remembered me from years past.
“Great job by your team,” said the gentleman. “I was pulling for them.”
When LSU first came here with Skip Bertman in 1986 and in subsequent years, I tried to figure out why the bond was so strong between a city and a team more than 1,000 miles to south. I think I figured it out. LSU fans treat Omaha like it is – a very special place.
And, for two weeks in June, that love is reciprocal.
For reporters working the College World Series, the days can be long. And, if you win the first two games, you can have three days between games. But I can’t say that I am ever bored.
I first came here 33 years ago with Ron Maestri and his UNO Privateers. UNO won a trip to Omaha by winning the Starkville regional, beating Mississippi State in the championship game. Winning there was an enormous accomplishment.
The 1984 Bulldogs had first baseman Will Clark, outfielder Rafael Palmeiro and pitchers Jeff Brantley and Bobby Thigpen.
All were future major league stars.
When the Privateers returned home, we had the perfect TV shot: Maestri, smoking a cigar, in front of the scoreboard that said “Omaha bound.”
A new part of my life was getting ready to happen. Thirty-three years later, I can honestly say, it only gets better.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.