Finding friends on the Prairie

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2019

My wife and I followed our team to Omaha.  I have always wanted to attend the College World Series, the pinnacle of college baseball.  Baseball was my favorite sport growing up though my talent level peaked in Pony League.  Nevertheless, I knew the statistics of every Braves player and most of the stars around the major leagues.

Auburn had got hot at exactly the right time.  The Tigers won the regional and super-regional tournaments and found themselves at the College World Series for the first time in 22 years.   How could Mary Lou and I not check this event off our bucket list?

Their first game was on Sunday evening which was a blessing given the hotter than normal temperatures.  Unfortunately, Auburn was facing the nation’s top college pitcher.   Ethan Small had been amazing all year but Auburn drew first blood on a long homerun by Edouard Julien.  In fact, the long drive to right field tied the record for the longest homerun ever hit in the stadium. 

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Auburn held the lead the entire game before losing in the bottom of the ninth inning on a throwing error by the same Edouard Julien.  Hero to goat in the same game.  Baseball can be tough on the fans and the players and constantly reminds us that the game is not over until the last out is made. 

It would be easy to say this heart wrenching loss ruined our trip, but that would not be true.  This team has exceeded expectations and still has a potential path to victory.  Time will tell how it all ends up.

The great thing about these types of trips are the unexpected connections that you make over just a few days.  The tens of thousands of fans in Omaha for this event have just two things in common.  They love their school and they love the game of baseball.  It makes for one of the best atmospheres in sports.

Coincidentally, we wound up with tickets next to an old fraternity brother of mine that had played baseball at Auburn and in the College World Series 43 years earlier.  What a great time we have had visiting. 

Some longtime friends from Bainbridge happened to be sitting on the same row.  We picked out some other friends from Donalsonville in the crowd of over 22,000.  What are the odds of that happening? 

We met people from across the country while in Omaha and have learned much about the city.   We learned how incredible Omaha steaks are and just to be sure we tested them a second time. 

We have continued our quest to visit the Capitol building of every state.  During this visit we toured the capitol of Iowa located in Des Moines and the capitol of Nebraska in Lincoln.  They could not have been more different.  Iowans have a very ornate building, constructed to showcase the fact that they were on the edge of civilization as they country moved westward.

The Nebraska capital was started before the Great Depression and took ten years to build.  It has more symbolism in its design and artwork than any capitol I have visited.   14 stories tall, it is different from any other state in its design.

While walking through the capitol in Lincoln, we heard a voice yell out “War Eagle”.  It was an attorney working for a senator who happened to have graduated from Auburn.  He took us into the Senator’s office and we unexpectedly had a great visit comparing the politics of Georgia and Nebraska. 

While in Lincoln we toured the University of Nebraska.  Let’s just say that Cornhusker red is everywhere in this city.

We traveled on some back roads to see the farmland of Nebraska and Iowa and learned just how big their cornfields can be.  The answer is as far as the eye can see.    We ate at a restaurant that is justifiably rated as one of the top 20 breakfast restaurants in the United States.  You could gain weight eating there just once a month.

Who would think that Omaha is home to one of the top three zoos in the world?  Or is the home to the incredible Lauritzen Botanical Gardens?  Both are amazing.

My point is that attending the College World Series was just an excuse for traveling.  The reason we love to travel so much is the many unexpected connections we make.  The unanticipated places of beauty we get to see.  The true small gems of America that are lost to all but the local people who live there.

There is a fabric of community that weaves through this incredible country.  People just want to talk and share their own connection with you.   No matter where we go we get to share time with people so different from us and yet just the same.   It lifts you up and reminds you that our world is not so large after all.  It is one of the ties that bind us together.