I arrived in Omaha on Thursday afternoon anxious to find out what locals thought of Florida’s chances heading into the College World Series.
Turns out, not much. In a 10-minute interview on local sports station 1620 (the Zone), rivals.com baseball editor Kendall Rogers didn’t mention the Gators once. Nor did the two hosts ask about Florida.
Florida State was brought up because of Mike Martin’s long history of bringing teams here but never taking home a national title. So were Texas, LSU and Nebraska, three teams that didn’t even make it to the CWS this year.
Rogers, by the way, likes Arizona State and UCLA, Florida’s opponent on Saturday night. Rogers raved about UCLA’s pitching depth.
It’s hot, but breezy here, which made for a bumpy landing. My hotel, the Sleep Inn, is across town from Rosenblatt Stadium but just a short drive from downtown. It’s aptly named, because there is little space in my room to do anything other than sleep. Square-footage is a step above solitary confinement. But on the plus side, there are free home-made chocolate chip cookies in the lobby.
Rogers made a good point that Rosenblatt has a tendency to play smaller when it’s breezy, which could work against teams with strong pitching staffs and little offensive punch.
Also, I had a chance to drive past the new downtown ballpark, Ameritrade Stadium, which is still under construction. Looks like it will be a nice state-of-the-art facility to host the event beginning next year.
Big day ahead on Friday, which includes a full day of interviews and opening ceremonies. Who knows, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan may even name a starter for Saturday night? My guess is O’Sullivan will hand the ball to sophomore lefty Alex Panteliodis, a.k.a. the Big Panda. It would be tough to ask a freshman to start UF’s first CWS game since 2005.
OK, off to find some steak.