OMAHA, Neb. –– Elijah MacNamee was walking through some of the downtown shops Thursday night before any of the events had started when a group of five or so kids walked up to him with excited and intimated looks on their faces.
“What’s up, guys,” MacNamee said as he and two of his teammates started dapping up the group of fans. “I’m Elijah.”
It didn’t stop there, either. During Friday’s open batting practice as MacNamee was taking batting practice more kids started gathering behind home plate. “Hey, 40! Can I have your autograph?!”
He again smiled and waved back to the fans and let them know he’d come over when his Mississippi State squad finished its practice.
“It’s amazing,” MacNamee said at media day, when asked about the kids running up to him. “I was right in their shoes years ago.”
“I know they’re here living the dream and they want a baseball. You gotta give them the time of day, they came here to watch us. You still got to pay attention to them. We’re not in the league yet, we’re still in college. We’re college kids. It’s awesome. This is what it’s all about.”
So how did all of this happen? MacNamee wasn’t a starter when the season began and has only appeared in 42 of the Bulldogs’ 62 games this season.
The tournament has been his journey to stardom. Through Regionals and Super Regionals, MacNamee is hitting 12-for-26 (.333) with 10 runs, 12 hits, five home runs, 13 RBI and a double before arriving to Omaha.
Two of those five home runs were walk-offs. The first in an elimination game against Florida State in the Tallahassee Regional, the other in Game 1 of the Super Regional against Vanderbilt. Two legacy-building home runs in the span of two weeks.
Not bad for a platoon player to start the season.
“Those are there and I’ll remember those forever,” MacNamee said. “But it’s all about what we are going to do next.”
“Those at-bats are gone, and they’ll obviously be remembered, and I’m just looking forward to what’s going to happen here.”
Now that he and the Bulldogs are here, has it clicked yet that they are in Omaha?
“Not at all,” he said.
Does it feel like it’s all a dream?
“That’s exactly how it feels.”
“You know, this was all of our dreams growing up. Just to be here,” MacNamee said. “When you’re sitting in the backyard at 8 years old with all your friends playing wiffle ball and you’re like ‘I’m in Omaha, Nebraska at the College World Series, 3-2 count, bases loaded.’ Just things like that.”
This is the 10th time in school history that Mississippi State has reached Omaha and the College World Series. In their last appearance in 2013, the Bulldogs fell just short losing to UCLA in the championship series.Now, through the ups and downs, a coaching change and one whirlwind of a postseason, Mississippi State, its rally bananas and the rest of the Bulldogs are looking to win their first ring.
“I’m just soaking it all in,” MacNamee said. “You’ll be telling your grandkids, your kids, your family members for the rest of your life what it’s like to go to the College World Series.”
“It’s sinking in for all of us and we’re going to remember these guys forever and we’re definitely leaving a legacy at this school.”