This week marked my first trip to the College World Series, and while the end result was disappointing I still had the opportunity to watch Vanderbilt compete for a national title in a major sport. It was tough to leave TD Ameritrade Park without a smile when I glanced back at six decades of athletic futility in the Commodores' rearview. It's nice to have some perspective.
Omaha was a gracious host for Commodore fans, who rolled out to the midwest in numbers unheard of for away football games. Every time I looked up I saw a different fan in black and gold smiling back. After spending the past five years in Wisconsin, this was a welcome change.
Since we've already got the outcomes of the games on lockdown at Anchor of Gold, I figured I'd channel my inner Peter King and hit you with my random observations from a pair of good days and disappointing nights in Nebraska (though, unlike King, I did not have the chance to cheat any children out of foul balls). Here are my stray thoughts on watching games two and three of the College World Series Championship live in Omaha.
- Vanderbilt fans seemed to outnumber Virginia supporters 3:1 in the city, but the Hoos were well represented once you got into the stadium. Orange shirts filled the sections behind the UVA dugout each night, and they had no short supply of noise for their team.
- In fact, the UVA side seemed to have more energy than the Vandy side in games two and three, partially because Virginia seemed to have way more children in their section. Those kids were fierce; leading cheers and breaking through any momentum the Commodores could build with relentless positivity. Children > whistling in Omaha. Bring your kids next year. Make sure they've had lots of sugar beforehand.
- Yes, the 50/50 calls on the field went in Virginia's favor at an 80/20 clip, but none of those calls directly scored any runs. It was clutch batting in high pressure situations that carried the Hoos to a national title. They deserved it; The Cavaliers held Vanderbilt to 2.3 runs per game after the 'Dores averaged 8.1 in the NCAA Tournament leading up to the championship series.
- Virginia's fans were super polite, friendly, and gracious in victory. They were incredibly hard to dislike, though I may have felt differently if their All-American third baseman had plowed through a Vandy fielder for no reason again in 2015.
- The disappointment from Vandy fans was palpable after the game, but there was also a silver lining of optimism. 2014 proved that we can win a title; 2015 showed that we can make it back to Omaha. We haven't even shown the NCAA our final form yet.
- Yes, every game seemed just as long in person as they did in television. Sitting in a section behind home plate gave me the opportunity to watch EVERY. PITCH. get called in from the UVA dugout to the catcher. Vanderbilt didn't help things in game three, either. With all the trips to the mound and the action-killing strategizing, there was enough time to throw the director's cut of Apocalypse Now on the scoreboard between plays and still watch the whole thing.
- Vanderbilt has been to the College World Series three times now. They won a national title in 2014. And yet, the merchandise shops and tents around the stadium basically treat the Commodores like a Division III team that stumbled into a golden ticket. One store had 150+ different hats featuring CWS teams. Four of the designs featured Vanderbilt. Florida or LSU shirt designs outnumbered Vandy apparel 8:1. One store had as many Lincoln Haymakers polos as Vandy hats. I don't know what the Haymakers are, but I'm sure Tim Corbin has very nice things to say about them.
- On Tuesday night, one local store proudly displayed "Back to Back" shirts with the Vandy logo on them. They cannot ship that design out of the country fast enough.
- Kudos to Embassy Suites for creating a great pro-Vandy atmosphere. The team hotel was draped in black and gold and welcomed fans for pregame sendoffs. They also made a point to blare Dynamite through the outdoor speakers...which was great for the first five minutes and then less so for the next 55.
- My previous trip to Omaha happened in the dead of winter, so it was a pleasant surprise to see how nice the city was in the summer. Walking from the old market to the stadium was easy, and most of the nearby establishments supplied good food and strong beer selections. My biggest recommendation from this week is the LOCAL on Dodge Street - ~50 Nebraska brews on tap, tons of TVs, and a strong happy hour. That almost made up for the lack of beer inside TD Ameritrade Stadium. Almost.
- And, finally, Vanderbilt remains winless in the NCAA Tournament in games that I attend personally. Next year I'm sending Andrew.