June 14, 2013: CWS Bliss

The College World Series is back and Omahans are loving life.
Anyone who lives here or comes to our city to enjoy the college baseball games knows exactly what I am talking about. There’s excitement in the air when the CWS is in town.
As we wait with open arms for athletes and fans, they in turn embrace our city. There’s something to be said for the athletes who play absent distractions of agents or endorsements. To watch these young men play from their heart, for their team, and for the love of the game is pure bliss.
Out-of-towners pour into our city to support their favorite team and watch the “best show on dirt”. Among them are celebrities — everyone from U.S. presidents to dignitaries, professional athletes and actors. A common celebrity visitor of years past was Kevin Costner.
My boys’ father, Scott, was Costner’s bodyguard for a couple of those years. He went on outings with Costner and his then-girlfriend (now wife) Christine. Scott even got a picture of his family with Costner (photographed above).
Take a close look at the picture. A keen eye can see that my boys — Zach, Ben and Grant — aren’t too interested in Kevin Costner. Prior to taking this picture, we had come from the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, and little Benny is holding a plastic penguin we had just purchased there. He was completely unaware that a picture had been snapped, nor cared that a celebrity was in it.
Zach truly appreciates the Rawlings wood baseball bat inscribed “Enjoy your own field of dreams, Zach” by Kevin Costner. But these aren’t the CWS memories that my boys cherish. Signed bats, caught foul balls, celebrity encounters are all great, but they’re not what brings them back each year. They return for the great memories; stories they will share with their kids when they take them to the College World Series in years to come.
My boys could tell you about their favorite plays and players over the years and the nail-biter games that they enjoyed with their buddies in general admission. (The best seats in the house, according to them). But the story that I will share is one that warmed this mom’s heart. It’s what the CWS is all about: Love of the game, a win of a lifetime, and fans being a part of the moment.
The year was 2002, the summer following the Kevin Costner picture above. Zach was 9 and Ben was 6. Texas played South Carolina in the championship game at Rosenblatt Stadium. This was the last year of a single game championship, as the next year went to a best-of-three series. Scott took our two oldest boys to the game with ball caps on and gloves in tow. Both Texas fans, they were excited to say the least. Grant and I watched from home on ESPN. Following an exciting championship win by Texas, I was anxious to hear from the boys. Little did I know of the unexpected, but incredible experience that they were a part of that afternoon.
Scott knew the wife of the Texas coach Augie Garrido, who had coached Kevin Costner back in his Cal State Fullerton days. When Scott escorted Costner and his clan, Augie and Jeannie Garrido were always a part of the entourage. On that championship day, Jeannie had run into Scott and the boys prior to the game. Later, as Scott and boys watched the last out and joined in the cheers of the crowd in a great Texas win, Scott’s phone rang. It was Jeannie Garrido. She told Scott to hurry down and bring the boys unto the field to celebrate with the team. So with smiles from ear to ear and burnt orange “hook ‘em horns” attire displayed proudly, they were swept through security to meet Jeannie and the team. The boys were on the field as the team dog-piled in celebration. They were smack dab in the middle of the media frenzy and were loving every second of it.
As the mayhem died down, the players signed baseballs for the boys with many pats to their heads and high-fives on a hard fought win. While the team posed for pictures, Zach quietly went out to home plate and filled his pocket with dirt from the field. Ben immediately saw what Zach was doing and did the same. As they later told me their tale of the CWS win and celebration, Zach showed me his signed ball and pulled out the treasure of field dirt from his pocket.
With the smile of a father who just shared a moment in time with his sons, Scott dug out some square plastic baseball covers and helped the boys display their signed balls with the dirt.
It is now ten years later, and although I had to dig in the basement for the picture of Kevin Costner, the ball and dirt are still displayed in Zach’s room. There is no doubt that CWS is where many great memories are made. And yes, that is what we call bliss.

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