I just returned home from my first of three consecutive weekends in Omaha and have good news to report: the Rosenblatt neighborhood is ready. Ready to host perhaps the biggest party in Omaha’s history: the final College World Series (CWS) at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The feeling can’t be disguised. It’s in the air. It’s everywhere. The lawns are primped, the “park here” signs are in place, the party tents are going up, business marquees now welcome CWS visitors. Prime time is almost here for the proud, humble community that has nurtured and raised the college world series from a wobbling toddler who could barely stand on it’s own to a noble dignitary with a legacy of strength and honor.
It’s not as if the people here weren’t given ample notice that June 2010 would be the last hurrah for this fabled event. Indeed, they were given notice nearly two years ago that their beloved Rosenblatt Stadium, sight of the College World Series since 1950, would meet it’s fate shortly after the 2010 schedule of events. As if having been told of a terminal diagnosis of a loved one, the community has had plenty of time to prepare for the end.
There has never been so much as a meeting, nor a memo, to tell the city’s self-appointed goodwill ambassadors what to do. Each one understands his role. Greet, befriend, share, smile, laugh, console, cheer, congratulate. Do whatever it takes to see that the fans that come to experience the “greatest show on dirt” leave town with their expectations of a good time in Omaha wildly exceeded. They get it.
Greg Pivovar gets it. Nineteen years ago he opened the Stadium View sports card and memorabilia shop a line drive west of Rosenblatt’s front entrance across 13th Street. Piv, as folks call him, opens his shop full-time only during the CWS. Sure, sales are good, but he’s more interested in serving his guests something to eat and drink. It’s a tradition he recently became famous for after earning coverage in over 240 newspapers and websites nationwide thanks to a story by the Associated Press.
Greg underwrites his generosity by renting parking spots, up to 18 cars at a time, and vendor space adjacent to the building. It’s probable Greg’s shop won’t survive the relocation of the series to downtown Omaha, a reality he openly conceded in his blog, but the legend of Greg’s hospitality will endure for decades.
Michelle Jasso gets it. For each of the last six years, she has staked claim to her ten foot by ten foot patch of grass along the eastern border of the Blatt. Her objective: to spread cheer in the form of cold twelve-ounce beverages. So as to mitigate the risk of not getting a spot for the 2010 CWS, Jasso, along with several dozen other traditionalists, jumped the claim on their tailgating turf a full week before the series.
Much to Jasso’s disappointment, the City of Omaha didn’t appreciate their foresight. Read about the 2010 fence debacle>>
“I heard on the radio [Saturday] morning that we all have to remove our tents by first thing Monday or they will be thrown away,” Michelle told me.
Rose gets it. The truth is, Rose will be relieved when Rosenblatt is gone. “That will mean less congestion and less noise for me to deal with,” she said.
Still, Rose helps out by donating parking spaces. Like clockwork she receives calls from her daughter’s childhood friends during the College World Series and for the July 3rd fireworks spectacular hosted annually by the Omaha Royals. Of course she obliges with a free place to park, as well as a place to go potty or to dry out in the event of a rainout. How much for her parking spaces three blocks from home plate? Gratis! Rose’s only stipulation: don’t block her car in.
The people of Omaha get it. They know Friday’s opening ceremonies at the Blatt will signal the end of a long and storied tradition of college baseball’s most memorable moments. They’ll never get the opportunity to throw a party like this again. They’re ready to welcome the families and fans of eight college teams to make history at perhaps the NCAA’s most historic event to date. The event scheduled in the sleepy South Omaha enclave the last ten days of June could end up being the biggest party ever hosted in town. The Rosenblatt neighborhood is ready!