Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baseball's Back In Omaha

College Baseball 360 Editor Sean Stires is in Omaha preparing for the start of the 2009 College World Series.

We're less than two days away from the start of this year's College World Series, but I saw two games in Omaha today. I mentioned yesterday that my son's 13U team, the Michiana Scrappers, is in a big tournament here in Omaha.

Before I go further, I should explain the name "Michiana". As many of you know, I live in South Bend, IN, which sits right on the Indiana/Michigan state line. Michiana is a combination of those names, kind of like "Texarkana". I've never favored the name Michiana, but that's another story.

Anyway, turns out this isn't just a "big" tournament his team is playing in. It's a REALLY big tournament. 2009 is the seventh year of what's known as the "Omaha Slumpbuster". Last year 462 teams competed in the Slumpbuster, with kids ranging in age from 8 to 18.

Ft. Collins, CO based Triple Crown Sports runs the event, which draws teams from across the country for games that are played on more than 40 complexes in the greater Omaha and Lincoln areas. My son's team played one from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and another from Illinois today. Tomorrow they'll play a team from Colorado.

They held what they called a "bonfire" tonight, but it was really a fire that set off a cluster of explosions and fireworks in the middle of a baseball diamond. I think my eyebrows were singed from my face.

The cool thing from the kids' perspective is, the tournament organizers aren't just using the College World Series to get teams here, and then leave them on the outside looking in. The people who run the Slumpbuster actually include CWS tickets in the packages for teams that participate (I should also say, the entry fee ain't cheap).

They schedule games in the morning and early afternoon though, so kids and parents have a chance to see CWS games while they're in town. Another perk is the fact that there are open practices and by the eight participating CWS teams Friday (the day before the first games) at Rosenblatt Stadium. Each practice is followed by a 30 minute autograph session with each team.

Can you imagine being 10, 11...12 or 13 years old and being up close and personall with some of the best college players in the country? Five of the players who are here this week were taken in the first round of this week's MLB draft, and a barrel-full more were taken in later rounds.

Our Indiana team alone has fans of Cal State Fullerton, LSU and Texas. I'm guessing that after the kids watch some of the Friday practices each team will have more young fans in its base. (My son, Jesse, might have to actually choose between burnt orange and purple tomorrow.)

Call me a kid at heart, but I am like a kid in a candy store right now as we get set to count down the hours to Saturday's 1pm (Central) game.

Check back in Friday for video and more blogging from Omaha at the College World Series!

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