With the Hoosiers eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament, I wanted to write a bit more about my week in Omaha in a way that didn’t really fit in the recaps.
by Cassady Palmer • @crpalmer0627 • May 27th, 2023 • Omaha, Nebraska
This is a special place for college baseball. Unlike many collegiate sports, there is no one place that embodies the respective sport the way Omaha does for baseball. Omaha = college baseball. And that’s the way it should be. Our iubase.com team has had the opportunities in the last few years to travel to some amazing college ballparks with some amazing fan bases. The Box at LSU. The Dude at Mississippi State (thanks Coach Lemonis!). Doug Kingsmore Stadium at Clemson. Plainsman Park at Auburn. All of them were phenomenal, but none of them quite have the feel of Charles Schwab Field here in Omaha.
Even for a conference Tournament that starts on a Tuesday, with teams traveling an average distance of about 650 miles, and a less-than-full stadium, there is a magic here. Charles Schwab Field, even with its quirks, is the perfect home of college baseball, and Omaha is the perfect home for Charles Schwab Field. Thanks to playing host to the CWS, these folks have all the logistics down to a tee. From field maintenance to ticketing and admission to concessions to parking, this place knows how to handle a crowd. I want to give a special shoutout here to the people who’ve kept the press box running this week. Everyone that I’ve encountered in this stadium has been amazing, and the hospitality has been second to none.
And for days, or at least mornings, without baseball, there are many non-baseball activities to choose from in Omaha. Topping that list is the Henry Doorly Zoo, which is consistently listed among the top handful of zoos in the country. Of particular interest to college baseball fans is the Infield at the Zoo, which stands at the site of the old Rosenblatt Stadium, the home of the CWS from 1950 – 2012. The Infield hosts the original Rosenblatt sign, bleachers and seats from the stadium, and the foul poles are even embedded in the parking lot in their original positions. I can say from experience, those foul poles are fantastic for remembering where you parked! Many other B1G fans, and one possibly-confused Iowa State fan, had the same idea to visit the zoo when I did, which made it an even cooler experience.
So if you are a college baseball fan, I highly recommend making your way to Omaha at some point. And if you are like me and are someone who gets stressed with crowds (or driving in crowded situations), the Big Ten Tournament is a wonderful time to do it. There is great baseball being played, and the atmosphere is fantastic while also being significantly more low-key compared to what I’d imagine the CWS is.
While the game on Friday did not go Indiana’s way, it was a unique chance to see former IU head coach Tracy Smith take on the Hoosiers for the first time since leaving after the 2014 season. As was mentioned in addendum to the game recap, this Indiana program is not where it is today without the efforts of Tracy Smith, even if he was quick to downplay it when asked. Coach Jeff Mercer is absolutely the right man for the job, but Smith’s efforts to force investment in the program and build up a fan base provided the tools for Indiana’s continued success. The new stadium alone, with its turf field, allows the team to play more home games, increasing from 23 games in the last year at Sembower in 2012 to 30 games this year. Even with the added games and playing earlier in the year when weather is less-than-ideal, average attendance rose almost 50% in that same time. The Bart has played host to a pair of Regionals, and with the selection this year, the Hoosiers have made six of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments since The Bart opened. This is undoubtedly Jeff Mercer’s team, but it’s built on the foundation that Tracy Smith developed.
On a last note, I’d like to thank all of you for following along with us for the last several years. It’s humbling to have this opportunity to cover the game and team that we love while also experiencing all of these amazing ballparks and meeting some fantastic people. The Bart will always be home and one of our favorite places in the world. But I think if you had told any of the four of us even five years ago that we would have the opportunity to come to Omaha in a coverage capacity, not once but multiple times, each one of us probably would have laughed. We do this because we love it, but also because all of you seem to enjoy it. So I again repeat, thank you all for supporting our Hoosiers as well as our iubase.com team. It means the world to us.