Cheering on the Bulldogs
Mississippi State fans travel from near, far to see CWS Finals
OMAHA, Neb. -- Monday morning, the weather radar around storm-surrounded Omaha showed a lot of red -- and the streets around TD Ameritrade Park Omaha showed a lot of maroon.
Mississippi State’s fan base has shown up.
“I drove in from Colorado from my son’s baseball tournament,” said Stephanie Knight, a Mississippi State graduate among dozens crammed into a local hotel lobby. “He plays travel baseball. He was in Colorado, Steamboat Springs at the ski resort there. He had a tournament.
“I put him and his friend and their equipment with another group of parents in a car in Wyoming and came straight here with two pairs of flip-flops, jeans and t-shirts from the tournament,” Knight said.
“I just filled up my tank with gas and started heading in this direction.”
Eleven hours later, she’s here for the first pitch.
The Bulldogs have been unbeaten in Omaha, winning three times and entering Monday’s championship series opener with the highest team batting average among the eight teams that took to the starting gate nine days ago.
During the journey, the Bulldogs, partly due to their laid-back attitude and attention-grabbing “Bench Mobb,” have developed a bit of a cult following.
Still, some fans, like Michael Mangialardi, a resident of Madison, Miss., who has seen every pitch of his team’s games in Omaha, still can’t believe they’ve reached the title series and are entering it with a little bit of trepidation.
“We’re Mississippi State fans,” Mangialardi said. “We hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
So what does a fan of a specific team do when his team plays three games in an eight-day stretch?
“We’ve refreshed ourselves here [at the hotel],” he said. “We’ve checked out the restaurants because I like to eat a little bit.”
Hardy Mitchell, with a well-weathered look that you might see in a motorcycle ad, did in fact ride his motorcycle here all the way from Starkville, Miss., to see his beloved Bulldogs.
"[I rode] 972.8 miles,” Mitchell said proudly. “I spent two nights on the road. I don’t drive after dark.”
To say Hardy is happy to be in Omaha would be a bit of an understatement.
“I’m about as excited as you can get,” Mitchell said. “We’ve never played for a national championship in anything and this is it and the Bulldogs are turning out.”
David McIntosh, 63, arrived in Omaha on Sunday night after a 13 1/2-hour drive from Jackson, Miss. He was all smiles hanging out on the aisle near his team’s dugout.
“I travel all the time, so I have all these miles, but you can’t use them last minute, is the problem,” he said. “We had already talked about if they made it into the championship, that we were going,” McIntosh said. “So I was already looking at booking rooms and stuff.”
McIntosh’s son Alex played for the Bulldogs when they won the SEC title in 2005. He’s now the Director of Development for the school’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“Mississippi State has one of the best baseball traditions in the country,” Alex McIntosh said. “To see us finally make it to the national championship series is really special.
“It’s really cool for me to see the fans that have really been pulling for the Bulldogs and going to events their whole lives, to see us compete for a national championship is really special.”
Try to get a ticket at the stadium box office about 90 minutes before Monday’s first pitch without wearing a maroon shirt and you’d stick out like a sore thumb. Lindsey Grant and Joanie Green, two current students in Starkville, didn’t make the decision to come until Saturday morning.
“We made a lot of phone calls and a lot of planning and we drove 12 hours,” Grant said.
Green did not seem to be surprised at all the maroon and white that surrounded her.
“It’s Mississippi State and that’s how Starkville rolls,” she said with a smile.