College World Series: Then and Now

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Photos from the past and present

Editor’s note: ESPN’s Tom LeBeau is in his fourth year helping schedule the network’s CWS coverage. He provides the photos above and the perspective below.

Growing up, I had a favorite green hooded sweatshirt.

It was cozy, broken-in and even though it started getting worn around the edges, I absolutely loved it.

Unfortunately, there came the day when I realized that the sweatshirt’s “character” was becoming more of a drawback than a style statement. Such was the case for Omaha’s beloved Rosenblatt Stadium.

The “Johnny”, as it is affectionately known, was erected in 1947 as the Omaha Municipal Stadium, home to a single-A farm team, and thanks to Omaha’s Mayor, Johnny Rosenblatt, the NCAA began bringing their annual baseball championship to Nebraska in 1950.

The stadium was later renamed Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in 1964 to honor the man that helped make Omaha synonymous with the College World Series.

The 2010 NCAA College World Series was a bittersweet event. It marked the 61st anniversary of the CWS in Omaha, but it was also the farewell tour for Rosenblatt Stadium.

Citing the need for vast upgrades to meet the demands of the ever-growing popularity of the event (as well as the technological needs for TV and the desire to provide more creature-comforts that are on par with most MLB facilities of the modern era), the NCAA, CWS Omaha, Inc. and the local event organizing committee worked out the details for a brand new $128 million facility in downtown Omaha.

The new facility, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, certainly will need to go through a “break-in” period, but the early feedback has been nothing but positive.

An NCAA representative told me that he had an easy measurement for the success of the new ballpark: Players seeing the new clubhouse locker-rooms for the first time instantly whipped out their cell phones for pictures to send out to the social media world.

From a TV perspective, it would be hard to make a facility any more suitable for our ESPN’s needs.

The NCAA allowed ESPN to voice its opinion during the design process and allowed ESPN to make some fine-tuning to our production plan once the stadium was completed.

The bottom line is that as long as the CWS is in the friendly confines of Omaha, Neb., it will continue to be one of the best family- and fan-friendly events our sporting culture has to offer.

South Carolina was able to close out the 2010 CWS and Rosenblatt Stadium in style, as the Gamecoks tore through the tournament and defeated a highly ranked UCLA team in two games to bring home the first Men’s NCAA National Championship in school history.

They are now poised in a truly unique position, needing two wins over Florida to record back-to-back titles.

The NCAA College World Series Finals start tonight on ESPNHD and at 8:00 PM ET.

2011 NCAA CWS Finals Schedule:
Monday 6/27, 8:00 P.M. E.T., ESPNHD/ #4 South Carolina vs. #2 Florida
Tuesday 6/28, 8:00 P.M. E.T., ESPNHD/ #2 Florida vs. #4 South Carolina
*Wednesday 6/29, 8:00 P.M. E.T., ESPNHD/ #2 Florida vs. #4 South Carolina (*If Necessary)

Visit ESPN’s Facebook page for the College World Series, ESPN Omaha

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