had a chance to participate in a hockey camp loaded with
professional and up-and-coming junior players last week in Chicago.
Then we were cordially invited (bet you didn't know that the LDN is
well-respected in certain college sports circles -- at least enough
to get invitations to championship events) to the last College World
Series to be played at world-famous Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in
Omaha, Neb. In this special edition of Mutterings we'll share our
insights, discuss Logan County connections and implications, and
basically just get our wonderful LDN readers pumped up for the rest
of the summer.
South Carolina sweeps UCLA
Of course I could break down the two spectacular games I
witnessed between these two outstanding teams. However, you can get
that same information and from more knowledgeable sources all over
the newspaper world. I'd rather share the sights and sounds and what
it was like being there for the final hurrah.
First, I had more than my fair share of trouble getting there. I
don't know if I punched in the wrong coordinates or if the GPS just
had a mind of its own, but I found myself a few blocks away from
Rosenblatt Stadium at the new stadium. By the time I discovered the
error I was buried in rush-hour traffic, but I did finally make my
way to the parking lot in time for some of the pregame festivities.
From the time I got out of my car till the time I left, I felt a
sense of excitement I have not felt since I was a little kid...
To give you some of the backstory here... I have wanted to go to
the College World Series in Omaha for several years, maybe decades.
When I was younger I just didn't have the funds or the wherewithal
to pull it off. Heck, it ain't cheap now. When I was working at the
college, it always hit us at a bad time. Whether we were conducting
summer events, training camp teams or getting ready for a big
convention, I could never get away to go even IF someone were to
offer free tickets.
And what's funny is people think that Greg Taylor and I stop what
we're doing at the drop of a hat and just go to games right and
left. And while we may have attended a few more contests than the
average Joe, the reality is we get to fewer games every year. We
don't forgo our responsibilities at home or at work... hardly
ever... Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
When I moved north I secretly hoped that would open the door for
me to "Go West, young man!"... but it didn't. I quickly discovered
that our schedule up here is similar to the college's. Spring just
blends into summer and no one stops to take a breath. So, as I wind
down spring studies and classes, I have to ramp up summer offerings,
and there are basically no gaps in the schedule.
I've learned covering sports that I probably won't ever be able
to cover every sporting event that I'd like to report back to our
great fans. But one thing I have loved about the LDN and I will
always cherish is when one of our readers calls or e-mails and says
that they were inspired by one of our articles to attend a game we
reported on, or play a course that we profiled, or visited a locale
that we said was a "can't miss"... That really gets my juices
flowing. But I digress... Anyway, it was looking like for the fourth
year in a row up here that I was NOT going to be going to Omaha.
That was until my boss said, What are you doing the next couple
of days? I told him I had a pile on my desk from being gone speaking
at camp last week that needs my attention. Then he surprised me. He
said that since I and the LDN had been given a special invitation
this year to the last tournament at Rosenblatt Stadium, he thought I
should go... I may have knocked him down on the way out the door.
So I motored down the highway... Interstate 39 to I-88 to I-80
are basically all you need to know, and that almost takes you to
home plate of the stadium. Of course that is hours later... a little
over seven hours later, but it could be a lot worse. They could hold
the tourney in Walla Walla, Wash.!
...Now getting back to getting out of the car... The smells, the
aromas were just intoxicating. It reminded me a little of the
pregame tailgating at Miller Park, the home of the Milwaukee
Brewers. The smell of all kinds of meat being grilled filled the air
as thousands of general admission fans scurried for good spots in
line. T-shirt vendors pitched tents and were lined up wall to wall
all over 13th Street in much the way I had imagined it.
Even the famous "dugout" store or tent was like I thought it
would be with shirts and memorabilia that would make any baseball
fan proud. And of course all these tents surrounded one of the most
talked about eateries around... Zestos! Their ice cream -- well,
actually their shakes were pretty much out of this world.
Our host, J.D. Hamilton, who is the assistant director of
statistics for the NCAA and longtime friend, encouraged me to drink
one of the products. His wife, Cindy, delivered a hot fudge
rendition to my seat on press row during the Tuesday night
championship clincher, and I almost forgot I was there to watch and
cover baseball... I'm pretty skeptical about highly rated things,
especially food, but if you have to go to Omaha for any reason,
you'd be crazy not to grab one of their shakes. Its well worth the
time and money! On a side note, I also made it over to the Twisted
Fork restaurant... You will not be disappointed there either!
Back to the story... I made my way to my seats and my food
(delicious traditional ballpark delicacies) and then went down to
walk on the field during batting practice. The field was in great
shape considering that eight teams had been beating it up for more
than a week. They have been playing at Rosenblatt Stadium for some
61 years. I should've scooped up some dirt and sold it in vials, but
I simply took pictures as I strolled around.
[to top of second column]
Then I ran into Orel Hershiser, the former great LA Dodger pitcher,
who is one of the TV broadcasters. I reminisced with him about some
of his great moments in the past and he couldn't have been nicer to
me. That was a lot of fun. His broadcast partners were there too,
but I didn't even get a chance to speak to Robin Ventura.
I did sit three or four seats down from the "ol' ball coach"
himself, Steve Spurrier. He is currently the football coach at South
Carolina. UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel was also in attendance,
but I couldn't get near him.
Anyway, the sights and sounds were grand, and there is just
something special about college sports. Here in this venue eight
teams survived regionals and super-regionals to make it to the grand
stage, and then these two teams, UCLA and South Carolina, both
deserving in their own right, slugged it out to be remembered as the
last team ever to win the national championship at Rosenblatt
Stadium. The Gamecocks pulled off the sweep and will live in
Logan County connections
As far as Logan County connections and what it may all mean to
you... Did you know that the grandson of some of our county's finest
folks and the nephew of my favorite Illinois hairdresser (Denise
Costello) made it to the final Great Eight?! That's correct...
Cameron Seitzer is the star first baseman for the Oklahoma Sooners.
He was second on his team in homers with 15 and in RBIs with 52. His
homer total placed him fourth in the Big 12 conference. How's that
for star power for you? According to OU's media guide, Seitzer was a
2010 all-Big 12 honorable mention candidate and was tabbed by the
Oklahoman as a first-team member! I'm pretty sure that he got at
least one hit and one RBI this past week, so he will always be a
part of the grand history of the ballpark!
Nice going, Cameron! Congratulations! (Ed. note: Due to work
obligations, I did not get there in time to greet Cameron or his
family and hope to remedy that in the future.)
Many folks in Lincoln have talked about going to Omaha for the
series and it's really easy to do. You can go on the website at
just navigate around till you find what you want. There's info about
Omaha, getting tickets, etc. Also, there are plenty of tickets for
sale in the streets if you just make a Mayfield move and decide to
go at the last minute.
TD Ameritrade Park, a sparkling new $128 million facility to be
completed in the spring of 2011, is designated to be the home of the
College World Series for the next 25 years. Maybe we'll see you and
some of your friends at next year's premiere college baseball event!
Some quick words about hockey camp
If you know anyone who plays hockey and would love to have a
great summer hockey experience, then Payne and I would recommend
HMI's hockey camp in Chicago, hosted at (but not affiliated in any
way with) Wheaton College. The hockey portion of the schedule, or
rather the ice time, was at Center Ice of DuPage. The hockey players
get outstanding skills training from professional, junior and
college players who also live and eat with them in the dorms. It is
a faith-based program, but who couldn't use the character
development and other positive traits they try to instill in these
I made the mistake of volunteering to serve in any way, and they
took me up on my offer. I was put to use as the morning speaker, and
it is sometimes difficult to pump life into 70 or more campers and
counselors at 7:30 in the morning, especially if they got very
little sleep the night before.
I have attended athletic camps for a variety of sports in the
past. And when those camps invited pro players in, they usually
arrived in a fancy sports car, spoke for 15-20 minutes, signed a few
autographs and then took off with their tires screeching.
Not at this camp. Noah Welch of the Atlanta Thrasher organization
and Derek Whitmore of the Buffalo Sabres organization practiced on
ice with the kids... but they also ate with them and hung out with
them. It made for a very enjoyable week for the kids.
I would love to see some camps like this in central Illinois, but
it will take a lot of campers to pull it off.
Well, kids, that's gonna have to be all for me on this edition.
I'll weigh in after the All-Star break sometime later this summer to
see how the Cubs, White Sox and Cardinals are doing in their
respective divisions. We'll also try to get you some updates on
Illinois and other local sports to see what the buzz is. Until then,
have a great summer, everyone!
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
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