Taking in my first College World Series game since the event moved from Rosenblatt Stadium to the new downtown field in 2011 was a great experience.
I’ve attended Creighton University baseball games at TD Ameritrade, so I was familiar with the stadium’s layout.
The new stadium is as good as, if not better, than many Major League ball parks. It seats about 23,000 people comfortably. The stadium has an open concourse, which allows people to walk around in open air without running into people. Rosenblatt’s concourse was enclosed and if it was five people deep, traffic jams ensued on the way to concession stands, etc.
The atmosphere was fun. The Fan Fest allowed people the opportunity to participate in throwing or hitting contests. There was a CWS village near the Old Mattress Factory restaurant, where thousands of people drank, ate and shopped to their hearts’ content. We did not participate in those events, but did walk around it during Series off day, when it was near empty. We did take a stroll around the events, though. It was amazing to see 20,000-30,000 people congregated in the downtown area.
People talk about how difficult it is to get game tickets, but I]ve never had a problem buying reserved seat tickets at face value. Scalpers a couple blocks away wanted $50-$60 a ticket. We bought our tickets 14 rows from right field for $29 each.
Since Lisa and I were rooting for Arkansas the night we went, we lucked out by sitting in a Razorback fan section. Lisa, an LSU fan, agreed to support the Hogs this season. The fans were great, with their “Woo Pig Sooie “chants.
The game itself was a defensive battle. Both teams were very similar – great pitching, similar batting averages, and very disciplined. Both teams made strong plays in the field – South Carolina’s left fielder Tanner English made two impressive highlight catches. He stole two sure hits away from the Hogs with his outstanding fielding.
Arkansas had its defensive moments, as well. The infield made great stops. First baseman Dominic Ficiciello combined with second baseman Bo Bigham to make great plays.
Arkansas gave up only 4 hits in winning 2-1, stopping the Gamecocks’ 22-game winning streak in NCAA postseason action. Arkansas finished with 5 hits.
The teams met later in the week, with South Carolina coming through the losers’ bracket to win two straight against Arkansas – 2-0 and 3-2 – to advance to the CWS Finals against Arizona.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere inside TD Ameritrade was awesome! The fans really get into the games and providing in-between innings entertainment. They have a new version of the wave. It starts in left field with the usual wave action of fans standing and raising their arms. Then, the second go-around has a slow-motion wave. Then, it goes to a super fast wave. That’s followed by a standing wave, where the fans stand and keep their arms up. Then, left field starts a reverse wave, where the fans put their arms down and sit down. It takes a few minutes, but was pretty fun to watch. ESPN showed the end of it and mentioned the process coming back from commercial one night.
Then, late in the game, the stadium’s audio guy plays Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Fans sing along, just like at a piano bar. Then, when ESPN is back from commercial and the audio is done, fans sing another refrain.
The best thing to see the fans do is the beach ball throws. Fans bring beach balls into the stadium and toss them around. This is a carryover from the Rosenblatt days. Balls that fall on to the field are taken by the grounds crew and put away. Some fans have beach balls attached to strings. They like to toy with the grounds crew, “dropping” the balls on to the field, and when the crew member reaches for it, they pull the ball back up. This is funny for a while. But, one crew member jumped on a ball in the shape of a yellow ducky and broke the string. Another group of fans got tossed out of the game for their behavior.
Ultimately, the 23,000 fans attending the game the night we went had a great time – watching a great game, participating memory making events and having fun at the game.
I look forward to getting to more CWS games.