Closing Down Disneyland

June 24, 2011

A wise man once defined disappointment as the gap between expectation and reality. Those who cheered the Vanderbilt baseball team therefore cannot be too disappointed. We believed our team could win it all and we were almost right.

Our expectations -- and our hopes -- were high and rightfully so. But in the world of college athletics, you can't get much higher than the national semifinals.

Logic aside, we have the right to feel a little sad. Readers will have to pardon the damp smudges on their screen; we are composing this through tear-stained eyes.

Disneyland just closed for the season. Our magic carpet ride is over. The clock finally struck 12 on this valiant team. Some of us suddenly feel our age after an enthralling season that made us believe we were teenagers again. Our joints may ache but our memories linger.

We will never again hear "Takin' Care of Business" without returning to the lobby of Omaha's Hilton Garden Inn where so much sheer energy and joy was generated. St. Thomas Aquinas said anticipation is the greater joy and here in the heartland, the sense of anticipation ran high.

We are sad but not for ourselves. Of course not! We hurt for the warriors in Black and Gold. We were the lucky ones with a front row seat on the roller coaster ride of a lifetime. We got emotionally close to young men who accomplished things never done before on our campus and were kind enough to teach us lessons as they went along. Talk about multi-tasking!

We learned that the sum of a true team is greater than its parts. Much has been written about the recruiting coups of our coaches but the truth is not every Commodore was regarded as a blue-chipper upon arriving on campus. Quite a few of the guys we now applaud developed the old-fashioned way - earning success through focused, hard work.

We learned to pay attention to detail. No one could gaze upon the immaculate grounds of Hawkins Field and not realize that every grain of dirt, every blade of grass had been considered. We learned how to stand at attention for our national anthem. We've learned that polishing our shoes, even when it's muddy, is an act of pride.



We learned that simple acts of kindness form lasting impressions. That remembering a person's name matters. We've realized that respecting everyone from the opposing team to the fellow power washing the stadium seats or taking our breakfast order makes us feel good.

We'll miss Coach Corbin bounding out of the dugout and D.J. shuffling out to the mound with the choppy, measured tempo you must learn at Pitching Coach School. We're going to miss Curt calling the pitches, the consistency of Grayson, the unselfishness of Taylor. We can close our eyes and recall Sonny's tenacity. We'll remember the grace of Jason at third, the explosive power of Aaron. We'll miss the vibe of Hawkins Field, the camaraderie and the feeling of being alive on game day.

We'll hope we haven't seen the last of several other favorites that have the option of playing for pay next year but who might conclude coming back to Vanderbilt for an encore will benefit all.

This Commodore team didn't achieve success when it qualified to play in the College World Series or when it beat North Carolina. It was successful long before that. Getting here simply gave the team the grand recognition platform it has deserved for years. They are as much leaders as they are teachers.

We now have little boys wanting to be Tony Kemp or Sonny Gray. Their grandfathers had the chance to relive glory days and mothers are thankful to identify good role models for their children.

Are we a little sad that it's come to an end? Sure.

But are we disappointed? No, how could we be? Why should we be?

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