Most of my Rosenblatt memories are about the stadium itself, or the fan experience. However, a few baseball moments stand out in my mind. One such moment was the second Texas – Arizona State matchup of the 2009 College World Series, a game I attended with my wife, Wendi. We had watched the two teams play earlier in the week in a game that would go the Longhorns’ way. Since we were in Omaha on our summer vacation, we took the kids camping for a couple nights at Lake Panorama in central Iowa where my parents spend their summers.
On our drive back to the Big O Friday morning, I received a call from my sister in Omaha who had won some tickets at work to attend the day game between LSU and Arkansas. She wanted me to join her for the game in the box seats just beyond first base. I exercised married guy logic and took only a second to give her the affirmative response, then checked with my wife to see if it was okay.
Moments later Wendi received a call from a friend who also landed tickets for the afternoon game – about five rows behind home plate. So here we were, both going to the game on free tickets with hardly any notice. That’s just how it works in Omaha sometimes. We patiently sat a couple hours through a rain delay in our ponchos until they were able to get the game in.
When Wendi and I met up in front of the stadium after the game, I announced that I would like to go to the night game as well. Considering we had driven two hours from Iowa that morning, then sat through about five hours combined of baseball and rain delay, I figured the prospect of a night game would be a hard sell. I figured wrong. By the promptness of her acceptance of my “one more game” proposal, it was evident Wendi had also been bitten by the CWS bug.
My date and I made a pitstop at the Curly Fries station and picked up a couple sodas en route to our seats. Then we got acquainted with our neighbors in the upper-most section near the end of the third-base foul line and settled in for some championship baseball.
The sun was now fading behind us and the humidity that was so uncomfortable around 3 pm had burned off. Splendid weather, splendid view.
With it’s rainbow of colors and the varying height of structures, Rosenblatt Stadium was always a treat for the eyes. On this night there was a unique aura about the place. I hadn’t even been drinking and the players seemed to project a sort of glow about them. Based on our position in the stadium, we couldn’t hear the voices of the coaches or players. Even the public address system seemed distant on this night. The crowd noise possessed somewhat of a buzz too. In short, it fealt more as if we were observing the game from heaven than actually participating in the event.
Even though a couple innings had passed before we got to our seats, we had missed almost no action. The scoreboard displayed zeros at the top of the third. That was about to change. Arizona State chocked up a run, to be quickly matched by Texas. This back and forth went on through the fifth inning, at which point the game was tied at two a piece. Neither team scored again until the top of the ninth. ASU put up one run and seemed destined to win this thing if Texas didn’t come up with some big bats. They did.
The slow-mo wave
As a spectator I could just sense something special was about to happen. With one out, Texas catcher Cameron Rupp stepped up to the plate. The anxiety was building with this raucous, sold-out Friday night crowd. Almost exactly opposite Rupp in the left-center bleachers, a slow-motion wave spontaneously erupted. I know, the wave shouldn’t be done at baseball games but stick with me.
How the fans to the left of the crew that initiated the wave knew at what pace to join the cause is beyond me, but the sight was spectacular. The wave somehow trickled its way across the break in bleachers at dead center and caterpillared its way across the right field bleachers. It inched along the stands behind the first base line, around the backstop, across the seats behind third, and eventually over to our section.
The suspense and pressure was killing me. At this moment I couldn’t focus on what the count was, or what the batter was doing. I only knew that I could ruin the most perfect wave in college baseball history if I arose from my seat one nanosecond too soon. With the help of my wife, my timing was precise. The wave made it to the end of our row, disappeared for a moment and was picked up perfectly by the watchful fans in left field.
A solo homerun, then a walk-off homer
Eyes back to the field. I only remember seeing Rupp take one swing at the ball. It was the swing that tied the game at threes. Pitch, swing, dink, crowd noise is how I remember it. It happened just as the slow-mow wave made it almost back to it’s origin. After watching the ball launch into the outfield crowd, my wife and I cheered and looked at each other in stunned amazement. Extra innings would extend our long day just a little bit longer – or so we thought.
Connor Rowe had other plans. With the game tied at three, nobody on base and facing two outs, Rowe no doubt knew the kind of pressure I fealt moments earlier with my role in the wave as he approached the plate. Would you believe that just as all eyes focused on Rowe and when the tension couldn’t get any thicker, up popped another slow-motion wave out of left-center field?
Here we go again. The dilemma: do I watch the wave or the batter. I managed to do both. I don’t know how Rowe did it with all the distractions, but somehow he was able to focus only on the pitcher and the task at hand. It happened again. However, this time the pitch-swing-dink was punctuated by a louder roar than I have ever heard at Rosenblatt (this was prior to the 2010 grand slam by TCU’s Matt Curry) as Rowe conducted a slow motion wave of his own around the infield bases into the waiting arms of his team.
The electricity continued to buzz as fans filed out of the stadium and into the night, each recounting in their own way Connor Rowe’s walk-off homer that earned Texas a 4-3 win and a spot in the three-game championship series with LSU a few nights later.