Sometimes your best chance at getting a baseball at the game is not from a home run or foul ball but by begging the outfielders to toss you one during warm-up. Holler out the names on the jerseys and make the outfielders feel guilty if they don't give away the baseball that scatters into the field. Nine-year-old Holden Kleveter got one Friday.
Fireworks added to the glow of the 2014 College World Series Friday night as fans flocked to the opening ceremonies of the games.
There was an interesting seminar on the agenda, right between practice and the autograph session on Friday.
All the players were required to attend, with each team sitting through a 20-minute presentation by the FBI,
The message, according to Texas pitcher Parker French, was, "Don't gamble on sports that you're playing or give information to people who are using it to gamble."
The FBI talked about the dangers of sports wagering and it was a sobering reminder for all the players.
Longhorn pitcher Nathan Thornhill said, “They were using examples from Goodfellas. I love that movie."
The feds used Hollywood to set the stage for what could happen if you get involved in betting on baseball. No one singled out players or teams. The presentation is just a part of the role of being good stewards of the game on college baseball’s biggest stage.
Thornhill told us, “They said that they would come looking for your parents -- looking for you. I said no one wants to get involved in this stuff."
The Texas players we spoke with understand they are role models. They want to not only look the part but be the role models for all the youngsters waiting in line for them.
Texas outfielder Weston Hall said, "I assume it goes on. I just know that none of us will get involved with it."
We asked Texas head coach Augie Garrido if this was unsettling and he said it wasn’t because it’s territory the team covers at the beginning of the year.
On the lighter side, the CWS Fan Fest offers free activities for the entire run of the College World Series with booths open at 10 in the morning. You can take a crack at the whiffle ball stadium, all while others watch it on the big screen.
They have radar guns to check the speed of your fastball. The highest we saw Friday morning was 59 miles-per-hour.
Maybe food is more your speed. Buffalo Wild Wings offers the Blazin' Challenge. Eat 12 wings in six minutes for prizes. You cannot use a napkin or take a drink during that time and the sauce is so hot even the chef wore gloves.
Omaha’s Robert Manning Sr. said, “I've had habanero peppers but I've never had this. It's hot. It's crazy… I finished all 12 in three minute.”
Robert even ate one of the unfinished wings of his competitor.
Over on the diamond, Texas is the only team in the 2014 field that's won a baseball championship and the Horns were on the field Friday morning. Their autograph line went from third base all the way to the outfield.
The Anteaters of U-C Irvine went second on the schedule. Players admit that their penmanship suffers when they write on a baseball but they love the connection with the fans even though it’s a task getting 20 or more signatures on a baseball.
The Anteaters’ Sean Sparling said, "Yeah, there's no room. I don't think there's any room for me."
Chad Hollingsworth, of Texas, said, “I know -- 13 letters. It's not fun. I have to shorten it up a bit."
The players are excited for opening ceremonies. A barbeque was on the schedule for Friday. Then comes baseball.
All eight teams practiced for the first time in the ballpark Friday. All eyes were on Texas in the morning. The Longhorns are making their 35th appearance in the series.
Texas has played in more College World Series than any other team and nearly twice as many as the other seven teams in this year's event. The Longhorns have won six national titles, which is second behind USC.
Head Coach Augie Garrdio is the winningest coach in the history of college baseball. The 75-year-old coach casts a long shadow over the series. He also competed in the series as a player.
He said, "I have tremendous respect for this tournament. It has thousands of people, players, coaches, media people, connected to the tournament. Omaha has meant a different lifestyle a different level of confidence. It’s provided a platform for opportunity and I am one of those. I came in ‘59 as a player and some number of times after that and if had not been for Omaha and what they do here how they kept the College World Series alive and how it has grown a lot of us would not be who we are."
Texas will face U-C Irvine in the opener at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Texas Tech fans are especially excited for their first appearance in the College World Series.
We caught up with some old and new Red Raiders faithful.
Grand Island’s Eddy Champion said he’s, "absolutely excited. It's the first time. I've been waiting all my life for Tech to make it here. I've been a Tech fan since the day I was born. And now that they're here, I can't wait to see what they can do."
Josh Rynes, from Wisconsin, said, "They're here. My youngest son picked them as a favorite to win. So I bought a hat and start cheering for them today."
When the teams arrived in Omaha there were already members of another team waiting for them. They are the eight host service clubs that will spend these next two weeks making sure players and coaches enjoy their time here on and off the field.
It begins with a pick-up at the airport, making sure all players and coaches are accounted for and then ushering everyone into waiting buses.
It's Go Time for eight Omaha service clubs in a tradition extending beyond 60 years.
Rotary’s Leroy Swedlund said, “It's to showcase Omaha and the love of baseball and to just make sure that if they have a question or need something, we can help them because we are local, live here and can guide them."
The first few moments are packed with events including a tour of TD Ameritrade Park and downtown Omaha.
It is hard to believe these guys aren't playing baseball the entire time they are here in Omaha but they are not. That's where the hosts come into play, making sure the student athletes and their coaches get some much needed R&R while in town.
The Kiwanis Club’s Jim Costello said, “We always have our cookout down at Chris Lake. We get Omaha Steaks, cook 110 Omaha Steaks, 60 pounds of chicken and a bunch of brats and we feed the team and their family members and it's a free afternoon, they can relax."
In the end, it's all about service when club leaders like Jim Costello and Leroy Swedlund set up player tours of local hospitals and other civic engagement events.
The service clubs include:
They get ready at Offutt Air Force Base.
Sgt. Blake Gaynor said, “Honestly, my favorite jumps are ones like we are doing today, we are jumping into a stadium. The smaller the landing area, and the tighter it is, that is the best chance for us to use the skills that they Army has taught us and that is target accuracy."
Besides the fact that it's awesome, why do they do this day in day out?
“It's just a really unique opportunity to serve your country in a very unique way. You travel around America in this aircraft connecting America's public to America's Army."
Plus, it's a recruiting tool. We went along for Sgt. Gaynor's 1,126th jump.
The CWS entrance is governed by the weather. Winds of more than 15 miles-per-hour would scrub the jump for safety reasons.
The weather got the MVP Award for Friday’s opening ceremonies. That’s a big change from years past.
Two years ago, fans filled the park but a storm sent the ceremony into the Civic Auditorium.
Louisville pitcher Kyle McGrath said, “I remember we had to eat inside and then we walked through the center field, walked on the field and then they told us we had to go in because it was about to storm so we were out here maybe 10 minutes before we had to go back to the hotel. We got back on the bus and when we got off the bus to go back into the hotel, it's just pouring. Everybody just looked like they took a shower"
That wasn’t the case this year. We have a great sendoff for the 2014 CWS. Enjoy the games and good luck to the players.