CWS is a homecoming for Grant Kay

University of Louisville first baseman Grant Kay grew up in South Omaha dreaming of one day playing in the College World Series.

It is exactly the things youngsters dream about. When the University of Louisville completed the Super Regional sweep against Kennesaw State last weekend, it fulfilled a dream that Cardinals first baseman Grant Kay has often imagined.

An Omaha native, Kay grew up just a few miles from Rosenblatt Stadium, which served as the home of the College World Series from 1950-2010. He used to ride his bike to the stadium and has attended every College World Series since he was four or five years old.

"I'm excited," he said on Wednesday. "I've been thinking about playing the College World Series my whole life. I'm just real excited to go back and play in front of my home crowd."

After transferring from Iowa Western Community College, Kay quickly became a key member of the 2014 roster. He has played in all but two of the 65 games this season, making 57 starts. Offensively he's hitting .289 and is among the top three on the team in home runs, stolen bases, walks and hit by pitch.

The key this weekend when the Cardinals begin play against Vanderbilt and throughout the College World Series will be for the home town kid, who has received countless ticket requests from family and friends, to remain focused on the task at hand.

"It's going to be tough to stay focused, but I don't think it would make sense for me to go down there and get caught to much in it," he explained. "I've been thinking about playing in the College World Series since I was a little kid. I just want to go play free and have fun."

"I'm going down there to win a National Championship. I'm not trying to get caught up in saying hi to everybody, so just really focusing on the game and try to come out like its an every day thing."

The distractions are plenty. In addition to being mobbed by local fans following Thursday's practice at a Omaha area high school, Kay also understands how the festive atmosphere can be overwhelming for participants.

"It is unbelievable," he said. "This is what Omaha is about. All year everybody is talking about it in the city of Omaha. It's hard to explain how big it is, but I'll just try not to make it that big for some of the younger guys and just come out and play."

Kay made the trip home last season to watch his future team play in the College World Series. He also recalls the Cardinals first trip to Omaha in 2007.

"I was out in the bleachers their first game and I remember Chris Dominguez hitting," he said. "It was like a launching pad at Rosenblatt during batting practice. I actually met a couple guys on their team.

"Every year I kind of jumped on team's bandwagon and Louisville was my team that year. I actually didn't know anything about Louisville and it's just kind of funny that I ended up in Louisville."

The Cardinals will begin College World Series play against Vanderbilt on Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

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