OMAHA, Neb. – They might have been more than 20 miles from the ballpark with no game to play, but the Longhorns still had baseball on the brain.
Morgan Cooper wasted no time picking up a wiffle ball, grabbing a few of the young kids in the Texas entourage who would try to hit one off the freshman pitcher on the waterfront lawn.
The morning after the Longhorns fell 3-1 in the College World Series opener to UC Irvine, they boarded a bus bound for Chris Lake -- a small lake in nearby Bellevue, Nebraska -- where the Kiwanis Club of Omaha hosted a team barbeque.“It’s a no-stress environment. The guys don’t need to dress up. They can wear shorts and a T-shirt. It’s not formal. It’s just a family atmosphere,” said Jim Costello, the team host and chairman of the Kiwanis Club’s CWS committee.
As one of eight service clubs in Omaha that play host to a CWS team, the Kiwanis Club invited the Longhorns staff, players, and families out to the lake on their off day for a Father’s Day barbeque and a break from the baseball. Chris Lake has hosted a CWS team for the past 20 years.
“I’ve been doing this since 1983. We’ve hosted Texas before. Being born and raised in Texas, it’s just an added feature of the day,” Costello said of his excitement of hosting his hometown team at the lake.
With 110 Omaha Steaks and 80 pounds of chicken on the grill, the Kiwanis Club had plenty of mouths to feed.
“Honestly,” sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson said, “we don’t really know where we are, but we’re so thankful they took us in [Sunday]. Spending the day with my teammates is the best part.”
“We’re fortunate to be such a close-knit group. You can get tired or grow closer and we’re thankful to be best friends on and off the field,” freshman pitcher James Swan said.
“It’s so fun to see everyone with their families,” Swan said. “We don’t get everyone’s families together often.”
“This is as important as any other tradition in the College World Series,” the Kiwanis Club’s Val McPherson said.
“I told my dad first [Sunday] morning,” Swan said, “there’s no better place to spend Father’s Day than Omaha. It’s one I won’t forget.”