Cody Ege remembers when he was at the 2002 College World Series, sitting in a hot tub at his hotel one night after the games.
Ege and his brother turned to the player next to them in the hot tub – a bullpen catcher on one of the teams – and started talking baseball.
"It wasn't like he was a starter or anything, but we thought he was the coolest dude in the world," Ege recalls. "We looked at him like he was the world's greatest. He answered our questions and signed something for us."
Ege has been to 13 of the past 14 College World Series events in Omaha, Neb., and said he has plenty of those stories.
Now, Ege is on the flip side.
Instead of the little kid with the dream of one day playing in the World Series, Ege is a junior pitcher at the University of Louisville and will be competing in the 67th annual event that begins on Saturday at the TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
"It's surreal for me," Ege said. "I finally get to be a part of it for the first time and I'm not going to be one of those kids in the stands watching.
"I'm going to be part of this out there on the grass."
Ege grew up in Cherokee, Iowa, which is about two hours from Omaha. He said his father, John, has been to every CWS except one since 1968.
"It's just a family tradition," Ege said. "My dad has been going for a long time. I would go with my brother and some friends. It was the thing to do.
"Growing up as a kid around there, it was awesome for me. We would always take our gloves and get there early for BP. It was just a lot of fun."
Ege will be having a lot of fun this week as well.
The left-handed reliever closed out Vanderbilt last weekend in the Super Regional, getting the final two outs for his first collegiate save.
The Cardinals will now play Indiana on Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT in the opener. Ege is likely to see action as the first player out of the bullpen.
"It's going to be exciting for sure," Ege said.
Ege was even there at the World Series in 2007 when U of L made its first appearance. But he said his high school team had just won a state title and he "was there to have fun with his teammates," that year.
On the season, Ege is 4-1 with the one save and leads the Cardinals with 36 appearances, Opponents are hitting just .106 against him and his ERA is 1.19, which is second-best among the top pitchers in the rotation.
Ege is ready to be the tour guide for the Cardinals.
He's also going to keep his team calm and try to make sure they enjoy every moment, including the role model side of things.
"It's an unbelievable tradition," Ege said. "It's going to be a huge stage, we just have to live in the moment. We just have to slow the game down and take it all in. I want to make sure my teammates understand.
"There will be a lot of kids looking up to us and we'll sign a lot of autographs. I remember every year, my brother and I would buy a hat. It's just a great atmosphere. For me, it's just a surreal moment.
"I still remember walking up that hill to Rosenblatt (Stadium) and dreaming the logo I would wear in college would be one of those teams on the hats or t-shirts. It was a dream for me and now it's for real."