OMAHA, Neb. – It’s been nearly four years since an LSU baseball team stepped foot in the city of Omaha. Shortly after 11 a.m. local time Thursday, the Tigers’ charter plane landed at Eppley Airfield, beginning a new College World Series chapter and arriving to a throng of fans at the team hotel.
LSU players, coaches, support staff and administrators took the two-hour flight before getting their first glances at TD Ameritrade Park on the drive into downtown Omaha and the DoubleTree Hotel. The $128 million exclusive home of the CWS now dominates the city skyline to visitors who enter downtown.
Little Leaguers, including the traveling Carollton Boosters team of New Orleans, greeted the Tigers upon arrival. Harahan native Mason Katz signed autographs for the squad that he once played for as a kid. It was LSU’s first taste of Omaha as anticipation builds for a matchup with UCLA at 7 p.m. CT Sunday live on ESPN2.
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“It was awesome,” said Katz. “We turned and looked at (TD Ameritrade Park). It is a beautiful facility. You are mesmerized when you look at it. To be here and to know that we are going to play there is an extremely great feeling.”
“We are not just happy to be here,” added head coach Paul Mainieri, who is making his fourth CWS appearance. “We are happy to be here, but we don’t feel like the job is done at all. The biggest concern, because we haven’t been here for the last three years, is whether or not the kids are going to be uptight or nervous. That is what we call the College World Series first-timer syndrome. I can’t tell you with 100 percent what is going to happen. But I can tell you if any team can handle it, it is going to be us.”
Temperatures in the upper 70s greeted the Tigers at Bellevue East High School for a comfortable two-hour practice from 2-4 p.m. Thursday. LSU steps onto the field at TD Ameritrade Park for the first time at 2 p.m. Friday for an official team photo followed by interviews with ESPN. Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Orel Hershiser (analyst) and Jessica Mendoza (reporter) will call Sunday night’s action.
The Tigers will then go through their official practice from 3-4 p.m., which is open to the public. A 30-minute autograph session immediately follows batting practice on the concourse from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Mainieri joins head coaches from UCLA, North Carolina and North Carolina State earlier in the day for an NCAA press conference at 11 a.m.
Friday concludes with the College World Series Opening Ceremonies where all eight teams will parade out onto the field. A concert from O.A.R. precedes the event, while the night wraps up with a firework show. All events are free to the public.