Baseball the way it should be…sunshine, great ballpark, great food, and all the amenities…is on full display in Omaha for the Big Ten Tourny.
Omaha – It’s been years since I last saw Omaha, Nebraska. It was 1980, to be exact, the last year I umpired at old Rosenblatt Stadium in the old AAA American Association.
The Kansas City Royals AAA team played there and there were a lot of good memories with that old yard…and this old town.
Omaha is on the eastern fringe of being “out west”, where Lewis and Clark once outfitted for their trip to scout the Louisiana Purchase. You get great steak in all of the restaurants here, and Kylie, out waitress at Sullivan’s last night, put modern Omaha in perspective.
“There’s really not much to do here except eat steak…and watch baseball. If you don’t like baseball you can watch the corn grow.”
That’s being a bit narrow, of course, but Omaha has changed a lot since I called my last ball and strike here 35 years ago.
It’s a much bigger, sprawling town now, hosting the corporate offices of more and a few familiar brands.
Rosenblatt, the old home of the College World Series (from 1950 through 2010) is now gone, replaced by the beautiful new TD Ameritrade ballpark, downtown. The CWS has become big business, of course, outgrowing the seating and earning capacity of the old ballpark. Rosenblatt held about 12,000 people. TD Ameritrade seats 24, 405.
The Omaha Royals, by the way, still play in Omaha, but have another new ballpark of their own on the other side of town. How lucky can your taxpayers be, eh, when you get to fund the construction of two minor league ballparks?
Except, they’re quick to tell you, TD Ameritrade is not a minor league park. It does one thing. It’s the home of the CWS, and that’s it (except Creighton University plays some games here). And beginning in 2018 it will become the permanent home of the Big Ten Tournament.
It has all the amenities that you’d want. Every seat is a good one. The lights for night games are major league quality. The concessions here are great (steak sandwiches, of course). And they really show up here when the University of Nebraska is in the tournament, about 15,000 strong for Wednesday afternoon’s game with Michigan State.
The Big Ten has moved the tournament around for several years in an attempt to please everyone in the conference, but even though Omaha is on the extreme western fringe of the league, it may well have found a permanent home in a couple of years with which no one can find fault.
Except, that is, for the elevators. Ameritrade is a four-story stadium and the elevators are so slow that someone joked that the only thing slower to arrive in Omaha is the first 70-degree day in spring.
My personal view is that the huge bronze statue of the Lewis and Clark wagon train outside the ballpark on 13th Street moves faster.
But, this is gorgeous if you like baseball, and as evidenced by the horde of major league scouts onhand, the quality of the baseball matches the quality of the ballpark. I’m glad I’m here, and wish you were, too.
I’d meet you at Sullivans!