Omaha Diary

Yes. You really can buy Barq's in Omaha. A reassuring taste of home up here after 900 miles and almost as many bugs on the windshield. I'm not gonna relate the actual transit time as some member of the constabulary or judiciary might be reading, but I did cross the Missouri River for the fourth and final time just after sunset. And, from the bridge, see the Promised Land of Rosenblatt.

*If anyone is waiting for today's results before jumping in the car, I recommend fueling up outside West Memphis. $2.71 for regular, though of course the Kraut Hatchback drinks mid-grade so I paid $2.81. Still a heckuva lot cheaper than the college-town piracy of Starkville.

*I'm currently ensconced at MSU's College World Series headquarters, the Embassy Suites-Old Market, about three miles from the Stadium. Sharing a room with Gregg Ellis of the NE Mississippi Daily Journal, and he didn't smother me with a pillow during the night so I assume I didn't snore too loud or long. Other road-trip roomies over the years have been less kind, though I've also put up with my own privations. Could tell a story about a certain bus driver whose volume around 2:00 am was so impressive, I had to get my tape recorder out for proof.

*The hotel is overrun with State folk, officials and family and fans alike. A couple of tables set up in the lobby are loaded with MSU-specific garb as well as more generic CWS memorabilia, and they're doing land-office (or for you younger folk, dot.com stock) business. Gotta get some shirts and a cap myself later to fill requests. Including from my lady friend, whose office in Jackson adjoins the office of a former Ole Miss player who never made it to Omaha. She wants something not-too-subtle to put on the desk as a reminder of who has been to the Series…

*Ran into a MSU manager in the lobby as he hauled a rack of cleaned uniforms. The grays, which State is not wearing today. The Diamond Dogs will wear the maroons with the script ‘State.' He also told me the maroons with the more block-letter ‘State' are being retired, not for any sentimental reason but just ‘cuz they're old.

*There are a number of Rice folk as well but completely out-numbered…even if not out-seeded. Coach Ron Polk isn't exaggerating when he discusses the brutality of State's bracket which includes the Owls and our first-day foe North Carolina.

Naturally this brings up talk of re-seeding, as was done up to 1998 for the eight finalists. But it's probably not practical based on super regional scheduling for TV. Look at it this way, what if a team or teams end up playing as late as Tuesday to qualify, then end up seeded for Friday games? That's much more unfair than the luck of playing it through two regional rounds and letting the seeds—and un-seeds—fall where they may.

*The Omaha World-Herald's special CWS section for today features none other than Polk and Oregon State shortstop Darwin Barney on the cover. Polk has arms crossed and a suspicious expression as he looks at the beaver beanie-baby Barney is holding, while the shortstop leans on Polk's shoulder. The cover headlines a story about the changing of the guard in college baseball with so many of the traditional (in the W-H's mind) powers of Texas, Southern Cal, Miami, and others not here. At least the writer does include State amongst the traditional club, with eight trips to Omaha. That's third-most in the field behind Arizona State (20) and North Carolina (15).

*USA Today's sports weekly section also has the Diamond Dogs sharing the cover, though their celebration shot is half the page with smaller shots of a player from both Rice and Louisville.

*We're going to wait until after the first inning to get to the ballpark. The one weak link is access with the lone main road which jams up easily and early, especially for opening day. So instead of having to arrive well before noon for the 1:00 game, we'll get there a frame or two into the Rice-Louisville contest.

*Just saw Tommy Raffo. The coach was famed for his focus as a Diamond Dog ballplayer and maintains the same poise as an assistant. But Raffo has some extra matters on his mind at the moment. Wife Paula is expecting their third child—and first son—on July 23.

*I'll be logging back on later this afternoon, at which time we need to talk...about the NCAA's rules on blogging and message-boarding during games. It's looking like the NCAA is getting so serious (paranoid?) that now message board folk not here at the tourney can't even post anything resembling a play-by-play. I need to talk to some other folk first, and with Gene, but do stay tuned.


Gene's Page Top Stories