OMAHA — Rosenblatt Stadium filled up early Tuesday evening for what could have been the final College World Series game played on the iconic field that has hosted the tournament for the last 61 years. More than 23,000 fans were taking no chance at missing the final act in Rosenblatt's long-running drama.
A South Carolina victory would complete a two-game sweep of UCLA in the championship finals and make a Game 3 Wednesday unnecessary. Next year the competition moves 3 miles uptown to the new $128 million TD Ameritrade Park.
The minor league Omaha Royals will play the rest of their season at Rosenblatt, and the United Football League Omaha Hawks will hold games there in the fall. But eventually the stadium will be razed to provide parking for the nearby Henry Doorly Zoo.
That lent a bittersweet feeling to this year's competition, particularly for the coaches of the eight teams who survived regional and super regional play. The thrill of advancing to the college game's ultimate stage was tempered by the reality they would never return to Omaha's "Diamond on the Hill."
As teams were eliminated and coaches went through their final postgame interviews, they reflected on what Rosenblatt has meant to them and to baseball:
•Jack Leggett, who captained the 1976 University of Maine team that reached the CWS and led Clemson here six times: "There is no better championship; there is no better place than Rosenblatt. ... It just keeps getting better and better. It's every bit what I built it up to be for our players. There will be another awesome situation in a new stadium, and I hope we can be one of those teams that plays in the last games at Rosenblatt and the first games at the new stadium."
•Jim Schlossnagle, who brought TCU to its first World Series this season: "Every single day at Rosenblatt was like life stopped. You didn't care about anything else. I told our players there are no bad days in Omaha. They have a big challenge ahead of them to replicate everything about this place at the new stadium, but I'm sure they'll do it."
•Mike Martin, who coached his son at Rosenblatt while bringing Florida State to Omaha 14 times: "It was an unbelievable experience for our young men to be out here and participate in Rosenblatt's last year. They will always know they were here for the last time around. For me, it was different to walk off that field for the last time. Rosenblatt will always be Rosenblatt — there will never be another place like it."
•Sunny Golloway, an assistant on the 1994 Oklahoma national title team who brought the Sooners back for the first time in 15 years: "I told our players they will remember this forever. We're going to remember the lighting, the opening ceremony, the warm welcome. Knowing the great tradition of Rosenblatt Stadium, we were truly blessed to be here for this final season."