The 2019 College World Series is the Greatest Show on Dirt

The 2019 College World Series is the Greatest Show on Dirt.

The culmination of the 64-team NCAA Division I baseball tournament, the College World Series takes place each June to determine college baseball’s champion.  Currently underway in Omaha, the eight-team tournament consists of two, four-team double-elimination brackets, with the winners of each bracket playing in a best-of-three championship series.

There are 31 Division I conferences in college baseball.  Each league champion receives an automatic berth in the field of 64, along with 33 at-large selections.  The postseason begins with 16 Regionals, which were held the first weekend in June each with four teams playing in a double-elimination format.  The winners advance to Super Regionals, which were contested the following weekend.  The Super Regionals play a best-of-three format, with the eight winners advancing to Omaha.

Home to the bobby pin, Reuben sandwich, ski lift and Raisin Bran cereal, Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska.  It also has strong ties to baseball, as 32 big leaguers were born in Omaha, including Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Wade Boggs.  Situated on the banks of the Missouri River along the Iowa border, the Big O is the nation’s 40th largest city, with a population of 466,061.  The College World Series was first played in Omaha in 1950, when the event drew a total attendance of 17,805.  The tournament lost money for ten of the first 12 years it was in Omaha, but city leaders stayed the course and turned it into one of the NCAA’s most successful championships.

Bracket play began this past Saturday with games at 1 and 6 p.m.  The best-of-three finals are June 24 and 25, with a final game slated for Wednesday, June 26 if necessary.  All finals games begin at 6 p.m. CT.

The inaugural College World Series was played in 1947 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  It was won by Cal, which beat a Yale team captained by former President George H.W. Bush.  Kalamazoo hosted again in 1948, then the tourney moved to Wichita for one year.  Omaha has hosted the CWS since 1950.  For six decades, the Series was played at venerable Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium.  The former mayor of Omaha, Rosenblatt was an avid baseball fan who was instrumental in convincing the NCAA to relocate its championship series to his home town.  What started as a quiet little ballpark on a hill grew into a cathedral that put college baseball – and Omaha – on the map.  Sadly, the iconic structure hosted its last CWS in 2010.  In 2012, Rosenblatt Stadium was razed and turned into a smaller-scale kiddie field.

In 2011, the CWS moved into sparkling new TD Ameritrade Park.  Located at 122 Mike Fahey Street in downtown Omaha, the 24,000-seat stadium is home to the Creighton Blue Jays and hosts the Big Ten baseball tournament.  Built for just under $130 million, TD Ameritrade Park turned a profit of $5.6 million in its first year of operation, easily covering its debt payments.  TDAP is roomy, both from a pitcher’s and a fan’s perspective.  The Kentucky Bluegrass field measures 335 down both foul lines, 375 feet in the power alleys, and 408 to center.  The state-of-the-art facility offers clean sight lines, and home plate is just over 50 feet from the first row of seats.  The park is comfortable, with 36 inches of leg room between rows of seats and 30-feet wide concourses.

The College World Series moved the spirit of the old ball park to the new one.  The 1940s-era Hammond CV electric church organ that played live music in Rosenblatt for more than 60 years was moved to TD Ameritrade Park in time for the 2011 CWS.  Additionally, the Road to Omaha sculpture was moved to the northwest corner of TDAP in April 2011.  Produced by Omaha artist John Lajba, the 1,500-pound statue depicts four ballplayers celebrating victory at home plate.

In 2002, the College World Series surpassed the five million spectator mark in all-time attendance.

The Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series earns the John D. Diesing Sr. Award, given annually since 1999.  As founder and chairman of the event’s organizing committee for more than 30 years, Diesing helped the CWS enjoy tremendous success in Omaha and become a fixture of the community.  The Series MOP also receives a miniature replica of the Road to Omaha sculpture.

Several notable Major Leaguers starred on college baseball’s biggest stage.  Sal Bando, who captained the Oakland A’s dynasty that won three straight World Series titles in the early 1970s, led Arizona State to a CWS crown in 1965.  Captain Sal was also named that tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.  Before winning seven Gold Gloves in right field and landing in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Minnesota Golden Gopher Dave Winfield was named MOP of the 1973 College World Series – as a pitcher.  Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years, in 2004.  Twenty-four years earlier, Tito was named MOP of the College World Series after leading Arizona to the 1980 championship.  Jackie Bradley Jr. has won a World Series, Gold Glove and been named an All-Star.  In 2010, the University of South Carolina center fielder was named Most Outstanding Player of the tourney

The University of Southern California has made the most CWS finals appearances, with 14.  The Trojans have also won the most titles, with 12.  Under legendary coach Rod Dedeaux, USC won 11 championships, including five straight from 1970-75.  Dedeaux, who died in 2006, was named “Coach of the Century” by College Baseball magazine.  Trojan baseball, however, has fallen upon hard times, as USC has not earned a trip to Omaha in over two decades.

Coming into this year’s tournament, Texas has won 85 Series games, most in history.  The Longhorns have also claimed six national championships spanning five decades.  Florida State has the most appearances without a title.  FSU has played in 22 College World Series, finishing runner-up in three.

This past Thursday, June 13, marked the inaugural MLB in Omaha game.  The Kansas City Royals hosted the Detroit Tigers in the first big league contest ever held in Nebraska.

With 18 CWS titles, the Pac-12 is the most decorated baseball conference in the land.  Seven member-schools have won the NCAA baseball championship, including defending champion Oregon State, which won the first of its three CWS crowns in 2006.  The Southeast Conference has sent a record four teams to the Series three separate times, including 1997, when the Tigers took the title.

Baseball is alive and well in Omaha.  Since 2006, total attendance at the College World Series has surpassed 300,000 annually.  A record 357,646 turned out for the 16 games in 2017, surpassing the mark of 353,378 set one year earlier.  The tournament has an estimated $70 million impact for the 12-day event, which pleases Nebraska’s largest city greatly.  The NCAA and city of Omaha have an agreement to keep the CWS in the Big O through the 2035 season.

Today is Day Three of the 73rd College World Series.  Two games are on tap.  The opener gets underway at 1:00 p.m., with the nightcap following at 6.  The tournament opened this past Saturday and will conclude next Tuesday or Wednesday, June 25 or 26.  All games will be broadcast live on the ESPN family of networks.