Customs - old and new - alive and well at new stadium
OMAHA, Neb. -- When the decision was made to build a new stadium in downtown Omaha to house the College World Series, fans were unsure if TD Ameritrade Park could hold on to the festive traditions that Rosenblatt Stadium established over the past 60 years.
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But throughout the first few days of this year’s event, uncertainty about the new stadium has waned and questions regarding the atmosphere at the CWS began to answer themselves.
Would the new stadium still attract unique fans? Of course.
Sonny Falcon, a Texas fan, drove to Omaha in his 1975 Cadillac – painted burnt orange with horns on the front -- like he has every year the Longhorns have advanced to the CWS since 1990.
Would there still be beach balls tossed around the outfield? You bet.
A plethora of about 20 beach balls were confiscated by stadium security on Monday afternoon – all at the same time. Three security personnel scrambled to grab them off the field between innings before play resumed.
The organ from the old Rosenblatt still entertains the crowd with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” despite a new organist -- Jeff Pawlak – and fans still sing along with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Outside the stadium games, the CWS Fan Fest still provides a fun, interactive fan experience that includes a home run derby, speed pitch, batting cages and souvenir photos.
Not only are the classic traditions alive and well, some new traditions may be in the making. During Monday night’s weather delay, the new stadium grounds crew reenacted Babe Ruth’s called shot home run to entertain the fans waiting for the Florida-Vanderbilt game to resume.
You cannot go more than a few steps without hearing someone talk about the comforts of the new place.
“I have torn emotions,” Dan Troxel said. “I didn’t want them to knock down the old Rosenblatt, but it’s kind of hard not to like this newer, larger ballpark. It just needs tradition now. I still think the CWS motto should be the ‘Greatest Show on Dirt.’”
Troxel, an Omaha native, has been attending the College World Series for at least 15 years, and his only lament was there might be too much space in the parking lots. He hangs his Rosenblatt Stadium flag high at his tailgate to pay homage to the place where he met some good friends.
“I think tailgating was better at Rosenblatt because we were all so close together,” Troxel said. “There was a lot of camaraderie and you saw the same people every year. There was a closeness [at the Rosenblatt parking lots], but that will come. We’re all getting our feet wet with the new and different place.”
While there is not much complaining about the new ballpark, fans are still sentimental about the old place.
Across the street from the new stadium, one of the vendor tents is dedicated to selling Rosenblatt memorabilia – posters of the old stadium, key chains that hold a little of the infield dirt and t-shirt proclaiming “I love the ‘Blatt.” The tent is popular with fans looking to hold on to a piece of college baseball history.
“Texas and Florida fans are especially coming by because their teams didn’t make it for the last College World Series at Rosenblatt,” Jason Kinney, the Director of Merchandise for Omaha Storm Chasers said. “There are people out there who haven’t gotten their fill of Rosenblatt. We have vintage items and the word is getting out about the tent to the fans that are still looking for memorabilia.”
As TD Ameritrade Park lives out the event’s new motto – “History Happens Here” – to the fans, the College World Series and the top-notch baseball it brings to Omaha will always be the “Greatest Show on Dirt.”