June 18, 2011 - June 28, 2011 • TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Nebraska • Attendance: 321,684
REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD
Well, it looks as if Rosenblatt Stadium and TD Ameritrade Park, the former icon and the icon-in-training, have something in common after all.
The national champion South Carolina Gamecocks.
They were a garnet and black thread between the past and present and quite possibly the future. Anyone think the Gamecocks are going to stop at back-to-back championships?
South Carolina was that good, that efficient, that dominant here the past 10 days. We’ve seen that look before, of course. Name your College World Series legend, and the Gamecocks had that look.
In fact, welcome USC — the new USC — to the club of CWS legends. Coach Ray Tanner, Michael Roth, Scott Wingo, Matt Price, Robert Beary and all the rest belong at the table now. We’ve seen their passion and poise somewhere before. On a CWS highlight tape.
Good for them. Good for us. They wanted it. We needed it. More than ever, we needed something resembling a CWS this year.
There was a lot of anxiety about this year’s event. New digs. Rising river. People driving around lost. Zesto located across the street, in a cardboard box.
Where was our CWS? Would it ever be the same?
It was different, but in the end, it felt like a College World Series. There were moments and things that made you wonder, but in the end, a dog pile at TD Ameritrade Park looked like a dog pile at Rosenblatt.
The CWS is going to survive downtown. The CWS is going to be more than fine in its new home.
There were two events here this year. The one inside the gates and the one outside.
Inside, I heard no complaints. The concourse, the plush seats, the views, even the food, scored high marks. Yes, there’s a bad view or two in the upper section. My suggestion: Don’t sell that seat, or sell it at a discount. You kind of need to see home plate if you’re going to a baseball game.
The organ music blended with the canned sounds that modern stadiums must have. The fans from both sides were visible and loud.
We missed the foul balls coming down off the screen and cheering or booing the ball girl. Dennis Poppe, the CWS chief, suggested that fans start a new tradition: boo the fine folks in the club seats or suites who can’t hold onto a foul ball.
Hey, the NCAA gave you the green light. Go for it.
Outside the gates, it was a whole new ballgame. Lot of talk, if not complaints, about it being too spread out, too many tents, too much this, too much that, too little atmosphere. Some liked the options. Some have to have something to gripe about.
It will be different next year. Survival of the fittest tents. The shape and identity of the surrounding circus will need some time. Something to watch. But if you can’t find food or a drink, you must really be lost.
Meanwhile, the teams parked on 13th Street, outside the team entrance door. They don’t walk through the crowd anymore, but there’s still plenty of room to stand outside the door and get autographs.
Except for a couple of days last week, the weather cooperated. So did the sewers. Thank goodness there were no games on Sunday night. Timing’s everything.
Did TD Ameritrade Park pass the test? I say yes, with flying colors. You might have a different opinion. For some, the stadium will never be as good. For others, it’s better.
Let there be no debate about this: The CWS works downtown. And it’s only going to get better.
Thanks to the teams, and one in particular, the new place is already filling up with signature games and keepsake moments.
We had an eclectic group. From South Carolina and Florida to Brian O’Connor to second-chance Cal. But for nearly seven days, we had little drama. Very little power. South Carolina had the walk-off win over Texas A&M. There wasn’t much to hold onto that first week.
Then it began. On Friday. The Gators won a tight one over Vandy, executing bunts and pitching great. Then Friday night, 13 innings of big boy baseball between South Carolina and Virginia. So much great pitching, so many inspiring defensive plays. It was classic theater. Price’s fist pump after a defensive gem ended a bases-loaded threat. O’Connor tossing the cup of water on the ground in frustration. Great stuff.
We also discovered that small ball is not a bad thing. The Monday night thriller, with so many great twists and turns and images, was as good as any CWS game the past 10 years.
We didn’t get that breathless feeling on Tuesday night. South Carolina’s 5-2 win was just another page in the Gamecocks’ unthinkable script. Michael Roth started on three days’ rest, his third appearance at the CWS, and lasted 7-2/3 innings and 127 pitches. Price made his fifth appearance in Omaha and closed the door.
Christian Walker, who was questionable with a broken wrist, was 2 for 4 with an RBI. And there was Scott Wingo, the Most Outstanding Player, with two RBIs and more solid glove work — a routine night after his highlight reel on Monday night.
Afterward, Tanner said Wingo was the poster boy for this team — not the most talented, but full of guts and heart. That’s how we’ll remember this team. Class acts, big coaching moves, confident dudes. Perhaps the most impressive thing the Gamecocks did was make Florida look helpless. For the first week, the Gators looked like the best team. USC made them look like runners-up.
This is what Tanner has built. It’s the new LSU. Like the stadiums — different, yet similar. Most talented team to win the CWS? No, hardly. But as good a baseball team as we saw at the old place. And new place.
By World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel
Robert Beary, C, South Carolina
Christain Walker, 1B, South Carolina
Scott Wingo, 2B, South Carolina
Cody Dent, 3B, Florida
Peter Mooney, SS, South Carolina
Tony Kemp, OF, Vanderbilt
Connor Harrell, OF, Vanderbilt
Bryson Smith, OF, Florida
Brady Thomas, DH, South Carolina
Michael Roth, SP, South Carolina
Matt Price, P, South Carolina