The College World Series kicks off this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska. The action starts at 1 p.m. Saturday with Michigan and Texas Tech kicking the series off at T.D. Ameritrade Park. Saturday’s game is less than 48 hours after the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers play a game in the same ballpark.

As someone who spent most of his life in Omaha, I love the CWS.

It’s an amazing spectacle. For two weeks, fans get to see some incredible baseball from eight teams. Some of the best college players get the chance to go out with a bang. For some, it is their last chance before their professional careers start. There are three players in the field this year that were drafted last week in the first round, including Vanderbilt’s J.J. Bleday, who was the No. 4 pick to Miami, Josh Jung from Texas Tech who went No. 8 to the Rangers and Ethan Small from Mississippi State, who was picked 28th by the Brewers. 

In a couple of years, we may be seeing these players step up to bat in games at Kauffman, Fenway and Wrigley.

But the aspect about the CWS that I like the most is when it takes place. The series almost always begins Father’s Day weekend. Going down to Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium as a kid and now T.D. Ameritrade on Father’s Day with my family is some of my favorite memories. The atmosphere is just something else. Rosenblatt was right in the middle of a neighborhood and next to the best zoo in the world. Parking was always a nightmare, but it was part of the fun. I remember people who lived near the stadium would sit out in their yard and sell pop, water, sunscreen and other items to fans walking down. Then in 2011, the game moved to downtown Omaha at the new T.D. Ameritrade Park. The park does not have the same charm as Rosenblatt, but it is a lot easier to get in and out compared to the original. And the concourse is larger. While I miss the history of the old ballpark, I liked T.D. more.

Typically, we would try to get tickets for one of the two Father’s Day games if we could. Some years we got to do this, other years we had to go before or after Father’s Day. Some years we planned to go that Sunday and had to wait due to rain. More on CWS weather in a minute. Usually we would go out to eat for breakfast at one of the many good breakfast places in Omaha before heading down to a tailgate. My parents went to high school with a lady who likes to throw big tailgates. They’re always a blast over in D9. They even make custom koozies with their lot spot on it every year. After that, we usually hit up the Baseball Village. There are a bunch of shops for T-shirts and hats, food stands, baseball equipment shops and more. There was a Negro Leagues exhibit to promote the league’s hall of fame one year. Restaurants and bars in the area have specials and are packed with people. One of the local sports radio stations, KOZN-AM, is also down there in the area and does radio shows between games with their various hosts, including my older brother, who will talk about the games and the other big sports news stories. If you are going to the CWS this year, stop by and say hi to Josh.

After that, we head into the park and enjoy some baseball. A newer tradition my family started was to pick a team to root for. For the next two weeks, we are fans of that team. While we would root for different teams prior to starting this tradition, we started picking teams in 2010 and would get shirts or hats based on what team was picked. I just got rid of most of these, but I had hats for Arizona, TCU, LSU, Costal Carolina and Louisville to name a few. I love this tradition. It has been fun to pick different teams, especially in years that I have picked to root for the teams that won.

One of my other favorites aspects of the CWS is the food. It has all your typical ballpark food, but it also has a variety of unique foods at different stands. The best I had was the Cuban Dawg at the 2017 CWS. It was an all-beef hot dog with a jack cheese sauce, mustard, smoked pork and spicy pickle relish. There are items that come and go each year too. I used to go to a handful of games each year with my best friend from high school. One year he got a chimichanga that was 15 inches long. But you also cannot go wrong with the classic burger or chicken and fries basket. 

Like I mentioned, the CWS is an amazing spectacle. The atmosphere is excellent, especially in the outfield. The seats in the outfield are all general admission so fans have to wait in line to get to their seats. Once they get in, it is a party. The GA seats typically are the ones who start the wave and like to chant back and forth about how the right field or left field side “sucks.” The GA also plays with beach balls during the middle of innings and pitching changes. Sometimes the balls fall onto the field and a field maintenance person has to get the ball and take it away. There are a lot of boos for that. Sometimes players will toss it back up and those players become favorites of the section. One year, there was a fan who had his ball on a string. Right when the ball was about to be taken, the owner yanked it back up.

But one cannot talk about the CWS without bringing up the “TDAmeritragedy.” The “tragedy” comes from a storm that hit during a game on June 20, 2011, the first year at the new ballpark. A large wall cloud came in with heavy rain and winds in the middle of a game. A Twitter account was created a couple days later poking fun at it. Media members, including my brother, have had fun with the account over the years with green remembrance ribbons worn on the 20th, including “never forget” in social media posts on the day. Since the “tragedy” in 2011, there has been a weather delay with nearly every CWS game played on June 20. So maybe the day is jinxed. There is a game scheduled for next Thursday. We will see if they get it in. I will not be surprised if it gets delayed again this year.

The CWS is a blast. If you have some extra time in the next two weeks, I highly recommend heading up to Omaha for it. Just make sure you are ready for some fun.

Luke Peterson is the sports editor for the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at lpeterson@leavenworthtimes.com