Josh Holliday made an interesting comment when asked about his Oklahoma State baseball team.
"For many years we were known as a team that just launched it over the fence and stuffed a bunch of DHs all over the field," Holliday said referring to the days of Cowboy dominance in the 1980s and '90s. "So in order to be a complete championship team, you have to place a value on defense, and that starts with how you train and your outlook. And like I said, I think there's been some great growth on the defensive side of the ball for us since the season started."
Some my take that as Holliday jabbing at the Oklahoma State past and putting polish on the present. I don't take it that way at all. Holliday has talked about how one of the best things about this postseason and College World Series run has been hearing from all those past sluggers that he often idolized while growing up and making those almost annual trips to Omaha. Just like in Stillwater where Allie P. Reynolds Stadium and the diamond was his playground and it was the same for his younger brother and current St. Louis Cardinals star Matt.
In Omaha, the two youngsters were all over Rosenblatt Stadium. Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium was kind of up on a hill bordered to the north by Interstate 80, to the east by the zoo, and back to the south and west by an older south Omaha neighborhood. A neighborhood mixed in culture and ethnicity, a classic neighborhood that was fun to have around the stadium. The old minor league ballpark and home of the Omaha Royals was gradually built up to become a better host for the College World Series.
The old days on that plot of land in South Omaha had the flavor of a county fair. The bratwurst tasted so good and the cotton candy so sweet. It was a fun event and one that holds memories that I will always cherish. I worked and was with Bob Barry Jr. on many of those trips. Later, it was my good friend and the Godfather to my son Zach, Van Shea Iven.
Driving back toward downtown meant stopping for a postgame Italian dinner at Mr. C's.
Monday night was my first trip to the new College World Series and the home of the event since 2011, TD Ameritrade Park. I didn't go in with the idea that it wouldn't be as good and that Rosenblatt Stadium was the only place in Omaha for the CWS. What I discovered was still a great atmosphere, but one that is more like going to a Major League baseball game.
The stadium is modern and every bit as nice as any big league park. The players get to play on a great manicured field in a stadium that is as shiny and impressive as the big leagues. Many of these players will someday play in a real big league park, but the rest will never forget Omaha and their facsimile big league experience. I'm told the brats still taste good and this year there is beer to wash them down. The ice cream cones are bigger than any I've ever seen.
The Cowboys are winning games a little differently than they used to. The new home of the College World Series is winning fans and players over a little different than its predecessor did. What is really great is the Cowboys new MO is also the best way to play and win in TD Ameritrade. Ryan Sluder's diving grab, Garrett Benge dive and fireball to first are examples of winning defensively in Omaha.
My other thought....
There are six teams left in Omaha after Tuesday and how about this? There is not a single SEC or ACC team among them. The only two unbeaten teams are the Cowboys the Horned Frogs. That is now my prediction for the CWS finale and the best-of-three series, all Big 12 Oklahoma State and TCU. The Big 12 may have lost a number of good teams, they may be mathematically challenged with 10 teams in a 12-team name, and they may be stuck with the Longhorn Network that seems to be shrinking but not going out of business, but in baseball they are standing tall at this point.
It's about time the Big 12 had something to truly brag about. It's also a really nice way to be entertained as we wait for the calendar to turn toward football season.