Regional Memories Past And Present

A major part of the NCAA Baseball Tournament and the Road to Omaha are the memories made along the way. That applies to not only to the teams that make it all the way to Omaha and the College World Series but also the teams that will just make it to a regional like the one starting Friday at Allie Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater.

Thursday's practices by all four teams (Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Cal State Fullerton, and Binghamton) were followed by press conferences held in the player's lounge underneath the ballpark.

Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday started off explaining that some of his memories were right behind him on the wall with the huge pictures of Oklahoma State baseball greats Pete Incaviglia and Robin Ventura. Incaviglia was college baseball's all-time home run record holder while Ventura holds the record for the longest consecutive game hitting streak in college baseball.

"Those are my heroes," Holliday said turning around to face the images. "That was my Babe Ruth (Pete Incaviglia) and that was Joe DiMaggio (Robin Ventura) of college baseball. Those are my heroes.

"They are here because I want our kids to know that you can aspire to be great. You don't have to the fanciest field, skyboxes, and fancy things to be a great player. You just have to have the desire to work at it and the blue print to get there. This program has that DNA."

That weaves into the memories of playing in Stillwater for former Nebraska football/baseball standout Darin Erstad, who now after a successful big league baseball playing career is the head coach at Nebraska. His players are just young enough to not have played at OSU following Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten. Erstad remembers Stillwater all too well.

"I've told this story a few times and I remember standing on the warning track getting ready for pitches and having the ball fly over my head and giving up 37 runs a game," said the former Huskers outfielder and punter in football. "I remember playing here and listening to 'You Dropped a Bomb on Me' over and over and over. We had (cassette) tapes back then and they couldn't rewind the tape back fast enough for the next guy to hit the homer."

Holliday bragged the other day about Erstad as he followed the career of the Nebraska player while he was in high school and then Erstad's pro career afterwards. The two have a mutual respect in the way each has led his program.

"I remember Darin as a great two-sport athlete at Nebraska," Holliday said earlier this week. "He was a tremendous punter and then a great baseball player at Nebraska and in the major leagues. He's come in there and provided the spark they needed in that program and he has brought in his work ethic and his philosophy and you are seeing the product of all that with the way that program has come on."

"The feeling is mutual with Josh, a tremendous coach and has done a great job and kept things rolling here," Erstad said Thursday afternoon.

The 19 players that are here on the Binghamton squad are looking to make a special memory in Stillwater. Seniors and good friends in outfielders Shaun McGraw and Bill Bereszniewicz both know their days as baseball players are numbered. Like the NCAA slogan says they will be going pro in something other than ....

"We're playing for our baseball lives. The majority of us won't play baseball professionally, unlike a lot of the big schools that we are playing with in this NCAA Tournament," Bereszniewicz said. "For us we kind of expected to get hot at the end of the season and when teams get hot at the American East Tournament they tend to roll through and take it on the NCAA Tournament."

McGraw is ready, who along with his teammates needed close to 12 hours to get here on Wednesday from New York, to take full advantage of the opportunity to play in a big time setting in Stillwater.

"There may have been 200 people at our conference tournament and we are looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd and live atmosphere, people right on top of you and yelling at you," McGraw stated. "I think we are ready for it after the way we played last year in the (NCAA) tournament at N.C. State. That field, the playing surface is unbelievable. The grass is so green and the infield dirt is so special. I couldn't ask for anything better."

The fun starts at noon Friday. All session tickets are still available by calling 1-877-ALL-4-OSU. Also, OSU fans and fans of the other schools are encouraged to visit the Oklahoma State Alumni Association Regional Bash just up the street at the northeast corner of Boone Pickens Stadium and adjacent to Gallagher-Iba Arena.

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