June 14, 2012
"There's nowhere I'd rather be,
Than back home in Omaha."
-------------------------- TODD THIBAUT
OMAHA, Neb. -- And that is what it feels like — home.
South Carolina isn't just out here for the third straight year, it's out here looking to continue what's become an annual vacation. The Gamecocks haven't just appeared here, they've been the showcase, letting seven other teams in 2010 and 2011 play Blue Oyster Cult to their KISS.
For the folks like me who are lucky enough to cover a championship team — and really cover it, going to every game home and away, despite getting no extra favors from it like some outlets that were apparently told there was a practice on Wednesday while I'm still waiting for the announcement — it's also a chance for me to return and see old friends. Being an old pro at this now, I packed enough clothes for two weeks, not just a week and then hope to do laundry; I also spent Wednesday evening after unpacking going to the nearest grocery store for some supplies, because eating at The Drover every night would have me selling blood until my limbs began to resemble twice-cooked spaghetti.
We're here, ready to cover this thing one more time and present it to you, like we have in each of the past two years. It's worth it to check out our story archive -- <a href=http://southcarolina.rivals.com/showmsg.asp?fid=1824&tid=160003740&mid=160003740&sid=1017&style=2>Click</a> -- and re-read all of the stories leading up to the 2010 and 2011 titles. It's been a helluva run.
But the run isn't over, not yet. While all streaks will have to eventually end, that the Gamecocks are here again shows that they're not quite ready to have this one be gone.
I was talking to a USC staffer a few weeks ago, wondering if this would be possible — he said, "Don't think we got the bullets." I was in agreement, thinking that USC would do well to get to the Super Regionals and then bow out. I just figured that they didn't quite have that "it" factor, that rampant chemistry and magic, that had propelled the past two years.
I was wrong. I don't mind admitting it. As soon as the Gamecocks got Clemson assigned to their NCAA Regional, I thought that they'd be here. When they won that first game over the Tigers, I knew it. There was simply no way they were going to lose twice to Clemson to be eliminated the next day, or get beat twice on their home field by Appalachian State or Oklahoma. Since the jinx obviously didn't take effect, I'll also admit this — I booked my flight out here on June 4.
This will be a daily update from Omaha, besides the usual content on press conferences, games and the like. We thought it'd be nice for our subscribers to see what we also do when we're not at the ballpark. I'll talk about what I did the day before, from at the park to after events, catching up with pals, eating a few steaks, maybe seeing celebrities up close and personal, and most assuredly knockin' back a few of Grandpa's old snakebite.
Starts tomorrow with a full day of pressers and practice, with Ray Tanner set to go at noon. We'll have that up on the site and much, much more.
For those of you coming into town, stop by Upstream Brewing Company in the Old Market area downtown. I was there last night, catching up with our former brother at Rivals.com, Kendall Rogers, who now does an excellent job with PerfectGameUSA. Other than that, it was flying into Kansas City, driving up through some of the most boring country I've ridden in since I was taking that Florence to Lancaster sojourn (through Hartsville and McBee) many years ago, grocery shopping and resting.
Got a long (week? 10 days? Two weeks?) ahead.
* Also talked with some other national media boys and participating-team sports information officials. They all quizzed me on USC, saying how much they've enjoyed watching Matt Price and Michael Roth over the past two years. As for the chances to win this year? They agreed with me: "Get past that first game (Florida), and they've got a very good chance."
* Lot of Stony Brook red out on the town last night (I channeled the moment by concentrating on the red lager at Upstream). I ran into the mascot on the street — the Wolf, I guess? — and high-fived him. He pointed at my T-shirt (Rolling Stones original logo) and gave the thumbs-up, so I gave him some dap and told him that he deserved to be here.
* Hoping to get enough for a story later this week, but our hotel clerk — the lovely Cassie — said that she was cheering for the Gamecocks. Her first-ever baseball game, as a 19-year-old last year, was at a USC game in the College World Series. We told her (although my photographer was channeling his best Ethan Frome and promising a bit too much) that we'd try to put the word out that she'd like to see them win again. The story would be about if the Gamecocks are still the darlings of the random baseball fans in Omaha — they usually adopt a team, but is USC still that team after winning two titles? Have the Seawolves or Kent State Golden Flashes taken over?
* Humorous or facepalm moment? I have not seen them, but the SID for Kent State told me that he was sent a picture of a CWS T-shirt, featuring the names of the teams each written on a bat. His was "Kentucky State." And apparently, there was some merchandise going around celebrating the accomplishments of "Stoney Brook."
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