OMAHA, Neb. — Jeff Jacobson and many other Michigan baseball alumni have made Omaha, Nebraska home during the College World Series.
Jacobson, who played on three CWS teams during the early 1980s, said he has been enjoying the Wolverines' postseason run just as much as the current players, but the reunion with his former teammates wouldn't be the same without his old coach there.
The Wolverines alumni have a group chat with about 30 players in it, and they decided to fly Bud Middaugh — the head coach of Michigan's last CWS appearance in 1984 — to Omaha for the CWS final.
Middaugh and his wife, Dee, who live in Fort Lauderdale, landed Monday morning before Michigan opened its best-of-three series against No. 2 Vanderbilt.
"It's phenomenal," Middaugh said at Michigan's team hotel as he conversed with former players and coaches. "As a coach, I was really tough on the guys, and they all attest to that. Maybe in some cases unfairly tough. But there are so many lessons to be learned as far as handling adversity, not giving up, hustling all the time, helping your teammate up when he's down. We tried to conduct practices that way.
"To see these guys come back and include me as part of it, it is really humbling. It really means a lot to Dee and I."
Although Middaugh is grateful for the gesture, he said he won't allow his players to pay for the flight. If anything, he said, he owes them.
"They helped me out because, players play and coaches coach," Middaugh said. "They are the ones who did it out on the field. I look at it as they did a lot for me in my career by coming to Michigan."
Jacobson agreed that Middaugh was a disciplinarian, but he also said he became a better player and person because of it. He was an All-American second baseman and made three trips to the CWS in 1980, '81 and 83' under Middaugh.
Meanwhile, one of Middaugh's assistants, Danny Hall, went on to become the head coach at Georgia Tech in 1994 and has been there ever since. The two ate lunch together at the team hotel as several former players and fans greeted them.
"He was very particular in how you went about your business," Jacobson said. "He was a great coach but very disciplined. He wasn't a yeller or a screamer, but you knew when he was mad. He got the most out of everyone who played for him. The discipline he instilled in us, the perseverance you go through, it is really beneficial. I think everyone who started as a freshman, by the time they were a senior, they were exponentially a better player."
Middaugh, who led the Wolverines to four CWS appearances and six Big Ten titles from 1980-89, can't recall the last time he attended a Michigan game but said there is a reason for it.
"I'm not a very good spectator," he said.
"We are going to have to hold him down," a former teammate interjected.
Nevertheless, Middaugh says this Michigan team has a few similar characteristics as his former CWS squads.
Michigan was one of the final four teams into the NCAA Tournament this season and needed three wins in the Big Ten Tournament to pad its resume enough for an at-large bid.
The Wolverines are 8-2 since, including winning their past four.
"They picked each other up," Middaugh said of the similarities. "If we started to go in the wrong direction, there was enough there to bring us back."
Jacobson agreed. The 1983 team reached the semifinals before losing to Texas, the eventual national champion.
"You watch them play now, they are fearless, they are confident," Jacobson said of this year's Wolverines. "They can beat anyone. Back in the '80s, we had a team from the north, and I think the one thing that stuck out to me about Omaha was, the southern teams and west coast teams really disrespected us. They didn't feel like we belonged there. We knew going in we had as good of a chance as anyone to win because we had a confidence about us that we were unstoppable."
Jacobson believes the 2019 Wolverines have the showed the same resiliency when battling adversity. They are two wins away from their first national title since 1962.
"I am really impressed," said Jacobson, who lives in Chicago. "They are a tough team, tough mentally. They have gone through their ups and downs. It is just a beautiful thing to watch how they pick each other up. Winning is contagious and the attitudes are contagious as well. It takes really everyone on that roster to pitch in during the game."
This article is written by Ryan Zuke from MLive.com, Walker, Mich. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.