June 13, 2014
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There really is nothing else like the College World Series in collegiate sports. While other championships move from city to city, baseball's championship has been synonymous with Omaha since 1950.
The permanent location for the CWS has made the city of Omaha the college baseball capital and a place baseball players grow up dreaming of playing. The location of the event moved to the other side of the city in 2011 and into a brand new stadium, but the way the city embraces the CWS and the hospitality its residents provide has remained unchanged.
Vanderbilt's team has received a taste of just how important the College World Series is to residents the first two nights in town, but on Friday, they finally got a full dose of exactly what it is about.
For months, the city of Omaha amps up for the CWS with everything leading up to Friday - the official start of the 2014 College World Series. Now that Friday has come and gone, we are only a few short hours from Vanderbilt's first game in the College World Series.
The day was a blur of activity in what is annually the busiest day of the CWS. It began for the Commodores with a team photo in front of the Road to Omaha sculpture at 10 a.m. Since the sculpture was dedicated in 1999, it has been a tradition for teams to have photos taken in front of it before each College World Series.
After their team photo, the majority of players headed to the locker room to stretch out, while select others, including Tim Corbin, went to the suite level of the stadium for interviews and special photo and video shoots with ESPN.
All eight teams in the College World Series took part in the same activities on Friday, but at different times. While Vanderbilt's players waited for their first opportunity to take the field for a one-hour practice at TD Ameritrade Park, they watched on as UC Irvine finished their workout. Texas was the first team on the field Friday and Louisville followed Vanderbilt. Teams on the other side of the bracket practiced during the afternoon.
The one-hour practice sessions were free and open to the public. Even though the practice windows were not very long, all players were afforded the opportunity to take swings in the cage and pitchers worked out in the bullpen before tossing a few off the actual mound to close the session.
During the practice, the field was crawling with media members grabbing photos, videos and interviews of all teams.
Vanderbilt's practice was followed by an autograph session that Coach Corbin personally extended to try and accommodate as many fans as possible.
By the time the players and coaches sat in their assigned seats designated by their name placard, the line of autograph seekers stretched all the way down the third-base line to the outfield plaza, and each time the line looked to be coming to an end, it would get longer.
After autographs, the players returned to the team hotel to relax before heading back to the stadium for a team barbecue leading into the opening ceremonies.
Meanwhile as the players were back at the hotel, Coach Corbin joined the other three head coaches on Vanderbilt's side of the bracket for a pre-tournament press conference. At the press conference, Corbin announced that Carson Fulmer will start Vanderbilt's first game against Louisville. Kyle Funkhouser will start for Louisville.
At 7 p.m., the team returned to the stadium for the barbecue dinner and opening ceremonies. At the opening ceremonies, a free event for the public, each team was introduced to the crowd and fans were treated to a performance by the U.S. Army Parachute Team and a fireworks show. Before the teams were introduced, fans were invited to attend a free concert by Young the Giant.
Each team entered the field from beyond the centerfield wall and were introduced one-by-one in alphabetical order. The Commodores were the second-to-last team to be introduced.
After each team was introduced and seated near the two dugouts, the player with the highest GPA from each school was recognized and awarded a plaque. Vanderbilt's recipient was pitcher Tyler Ferguson, who has a 3.5 GPA in management and finance.
The ceremonies concluded with a fireworks show. Afterwards the teams hopped on buses and headed back to their respective hotels.
The College World Series is officially open for business and the city is bustling with locals and tourists here to experience this one-of-a-kind event.
On Saturday, everything will really crank up with the first two games being played. Texas and UC Irvine open the CWS at 2 p.m. and Vanderbilt will meet Louisville at 7 p.m.
Team Send-Off Saturday
In sticking with its College World Series tradition, Vanderbilt will once again have a team send-off before every game. On Saturday, the Commodores will depart the Double Tree by Hilton Downtown (1616 Dodge Street) at 3:50 p.m.
Fans are encouraged to attend the event and help send the Commodores on their way for the game against Louisville.
NCC's Pregame Tailgate Saturday
The National Commodore Club and the Vanderbilt Alumni Association is hosting a tailgate before Saturday's game from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the CenturyLink Center.