June 18, 2015: CWS Bliss
|2001 College World Series photo with Kevin Costner ~ kids are thrilled ;)|
The College World Series is back and Omahan's are loving life. Anyone who lives here or travels to enjoy the games knows what I'm talking about. There is a feeling of excitement as we wait for the eight teams to win their way to the final playing field of CWS Omaha. Watching these young men play from their heart, for their team, and for the love of the game is pure bliss. Definitely a favorite time of the year as we soak up the spirit of this annual Omaha summer tradition.
Like us Omahans, others from outside the confines of our Midwestern world are also enamored with the games. They pour into our airport and flock our city by car to support their favorite team and watch the "best show on dirt". Among these masses, we are also blessed each year with those of celebrity status. Everyone from US Presidents to dignitaries, professional athletes, and actors come to our city to either throw the first pitch or quietly slip in to catch a game or two. A common celebrity visitor of years past was Kevin Costner. Scott was his assigned bodyguard for a couple of these years and through this constant interaction with Kevin and his then girlfriend (now wife), Christine, to golf outings, dinners and drives to and from the game; Scott was able to get an introduction and picture snapped with his family. The noted picture is above.
As you take a close look at the picture, the keen eye can see that my boys aren't too interested in Kevin Costner. We had come from the zoo prior to this picture and little Benny is holding a plastic penguin we had just purchased from there. He had no idea that 1) a picture is being taken or 2) that someone else, and a celebrity no less, was even in the picture. And although Zach is smiling (as he had been so well trained by his mother...sight of any lens in his face meant SMILE or suffer the consequences), the first question he asked when we walked away from this picture-taking excursion was "Who is Kevin Costner?" Baby Grant is just waiting to get into the stadium for some cotton candy. You get the picture. So although Zach does truly appreciate the Rawlings wood baseball bat inscribed "Enjoy your own field of dreams, Zach" by Kevin, these aren't the CWS memories that my boys cherish. Signed bats, caught foul balls, celebrity encounters...all great, but not what brings them back each year. What brings them back are the great memories; those same stories they will be sharing with their kids when they take them to the CWS in years to come.
My boys could share with you their favorite plays over the years, favorite college players that went on to do great things in the majors, and the nail biter games that they enjoyed with their buddies in General Admission (best seats in the house according to them). But the story that I will share is one that warmed this mom's heart as it encompassed the feeling of all that CWS is all about; love of the game, a win of a lifetime, and the experience of the fans being a part of this moment.
The year of my story was 2002, which was the summer following the Kevin Costner picture above. Zach was nine and Ben was six. Texas played South Carolina in the championship that year in the historic Rosenblatt Stadium. For those familiar with the series, 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 via ESPN at home that day. Following an exciting ending to a game that led to a championship win by Texas, I was anxious to hear from the boys their seeing and experiencing all the glory of this great CWS moment from the stands. Little did I know of the unexpected, but incredible experience that they were a part of that afternoon.
Scott had the benefit of knowing the wife of the Texas coach. Augie Garrido had coached Kevin Costner back in Kevin's Cal State Fullerton days and they were friends. When Scott escorted Kevin and clan, Augie and Jeannie Garrido were always a part of the entourage. Scott had gotten to know Jeannie over the years and would many times help her out as he was a staple within the CWS security staff. On that championship day, Jeannie had run into Scott and the boys prior to the game as they exchanged small talk and pleasantries. Later as Scott and boys watched the last out and joined in the cheers of the crowd in a great Texas win, Scott saw an incoming call on his phone. 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 mass celebration. The hugs, yells, cameras, and euphoria of the win swirled around their little tow heads. They were smack dab in the middle of the media and team celebration frenzy and were loving every second of feeling a part of the winning team.
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 (as a point of reference...the bracket was 64 teams deep when Texas started their road to the championship). While the team posed for media pictures, Zach quietly went out to home plate and filled his pocket with brown dirt from the now empty field. Ben immediately saw what his brother was doing and did the same. As they later told me their wide-eyed tale of the CWS win and celebration from the field, 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 saved dirt poured out of their pockets to cover the bottom of the encased displays.
It is now thirteen years later and although I had to dig in the basement for the picture of Kevin Costner, the ball and dirt are still displayed on a shelf in Zach's old room. There is no doubt that CWS is where many great memories are made. And yes, that is what we call bliss.