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June 20, 2010
Steve Phillips, Assistant Director of Communications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, takes you Beyond the ACCtion in Omaha for the 2010 College World Series. Check theACC.com daily for more entries.
As I rode with several friends to Saturday’s College World Series opener between Florida State and TCU, we chuckled in amusement at what seemed to be a group of overly ambitious young entrepreneurs.
Standing outside a neighborhood home on Omaha’s 10th Street, a good mile-and-a-half from Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, three preteens waved handmade signs inviting spectators to park in their front yard for a mere $5.
“Good luck with that,” one of my pals said, and we chuckled in amusement.
A few blocks later, as traffic backed up and we sat unmoving, it didn’t seem quite so funny. Reaching our designated parking lot at the stadium by game time seemed a hopeless quest, and the walk from the outskirts of downtown we’d passed up suddenly seemed a viable option.
As it turned out, we underestimated the ability of stadium traffic personnel, who kept things moving and put cars in the lots with time to spare. I suppose when you’ve been doing something for 61 years, you learn all the tricks.
But the heavy traffic bore out what one Omaha resident had told me on Friday:
“With this being the last World Series at Rosenblatt, half the free world is going to be here.”
The other half appeared up to show up for Saturday’s second game between Florida and UCLA. Some 90 minutes before the first pitch, the line for general admission tickets extended from the gates outside center field, snaked clockwise around the stadium and ended somewhere parallel to the left field line.
I have no idea if everyone who stood in the heat (actually not as sweltering as Omaha can be, but still pretty warm) managed to gain admission, but the raw data from the first game confirmed every hunch: This year’s CWS will shatter attendance records.
Saturday’s crowd of 23,649 for the TCU’s 8-1 win over Florida State was nearly 500 spectators above Rosenblatt Stadium’s official 23,170-seat capacity. It topped by several thousand the 19,986 that showed up for the 2009 championship game between LSU and Texas. It also represented the largest crowd to ever see a baseball game involving TCU.
The attendance for Saturday’s second game (UCLA’s 11-3 win over Florida) was listed at 23,271.
BEYOND WINS AND LOSSES FOR MARTIN
Mike Martin has coached Florida State baseball for 31 years and he has a team in the College World Series for the 14th time. With experience comes a sense of perspective, which he displayed following Saturday’s disappointing loss to TCU.
“I wish there was something that I could say that would make any sense,” Martin said. “I'll just say that I'm very proud to be a Seminole and associated with this baseball team. Certainly, we're disappointed. But this TCU club is very good; they whipped us today. And I got a few of these on my resume, so it's nothing new.”
Martin is still seeking his first College World Series championship, but the event has already given him his ultimate thrill in coaching. Martin cited being able to see his son play in two College World Series in the mid-1990s as his proudest moment. He hopes to one day see his 6-year-old grandson, T.J., follow suit.
“I want to live long enough to see him play out here,” Martin said. “I dang sure ain’t going to coach him.”
NOW IT IS CLEMSON’S TURN
While Florida State didn’t have to wait long to see its first 2010 CWS action, fellow ACC member Clemson drew the latest possible first game in the eight-team double-elimination tournament. The Tigers (43-23) face top-seeded Arizona (52-8) tonight at 7 Eastern Time.
Clemson spent the latter part of Saturday morning practicing at nearby Creighton University. Meanwhile, one of their biggest supporters was en route to Omaha in hopes of providing a good luck charm.
Those who attend Clemson baseball games regularly know that during every seventh-inning stretch, the legendary Danny Cannon sings the classic, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”
Cannon decided to take his act westward, and left the state of South Carolina early Saturday morning with a few members of the Clemson grounds crew en route to Omaha.
According to friends and co-workers, it marks the first time in 30 years that Cannon has traveled more than 15 miles outside of Clemson. Fans can follow his story on the Clemson Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/clemsontigers.