AUSTIN, Texas -- It wouldn’t be a road trip if I didn’t stop to get presents for my siblings.
And so I found myself at the University Co-Op, Texas’ on-campus bookstore, the morning after the Longhorns earned their record 35th berth in the College World Series, sweeping Houston to win the Austin Super Regional.
As I did laps around the store – the perpetually indecisive shopper that I am – I noticed I wasn’t the only one stocking up.In the sea of burnt orange, I caught David Dodson and Rudy Ocejo, each with hands full, carrying Texas baseball jerseys and shirts.
Usually forced to watch the Longhorns on television, the friends drove from Dallas and Houston, respectively, for their first series of the season – the most important one the Longhorns have played so far, as it turned out.
Dodson and Ocejo, who met at a tailgate for the Texas-West Virginia game a few years ago, are both Texas grads. After tickets for the Austin Super Regional were released, Ocejo called the box office Tuesday and left the phone on hold.
“They were all sold out. Just as I texted David, the lady came back on the phone and told me to wait a few more minutes and see what came up. We waited and she said two seats became available. She asked, ‘Do you want these?’ I didn’t even hesitate,” Ocejo said.
“We were [in] last [place] in the Big 12 last year. Just to make it back to Omaha…” Dodson trailed off, shaking his head in disbelief. “We were so bad last year. Mark Payton came back. Several of these guys could have gone pro, but they came back. They came back for this.”
They came back for that elusive trip to Omaha.
As Houston’s Justin Montemayor flew out in the top of the ninth inning to punch Texas’ CWS ticket on Saturday afternoon, I had out my iPhone, expecting to capture a dogpile.
Instead, the Longhorns simply shook hands and decided they were saving any dogpiling for Omaha.
The Longhorns may have been to the College World Series 35 times. But for me, well, I’m just a rookie. I’ve never been to Omaha. I’ve never been to a World Series.
I’m just a fan of the game with a pen, a notepad, and an iPhone, caught up in all the magic of this game, just like everyone else.
And Monday morning, like so many Texas fans, I’ll leave Austin and drive the last stretch of road that separates me and TD Ameritrade Park.
When Texas last made the College World Series, Dodson said he and Ocejo almost went, but decided not to make the trip north and regretted the decision ever since.
They refused to let 2014 pass them by.
“There’s five or six of us going, now. It’ll be our first time, which probably just adds to the excitement,” Dodson said.
Under the Augie Garrido scoreboard at the bookstore, the Texas baseball caps and jerseys were flying off the shelves. They say everything’s bigger in the Texas – including Omaha fever, it seems.
“I’m sure it’ll be boring,” he said with a laugh. “It’s part of my bucket list to go to Omaha.”
You know what, David? It's on mine, too.