For baseball fans across the country, the College World Series is a special place. It takes place every year in Omaha.
For the past seven years, the Mason City baseball team has made the trek to Omaha, giving the players a glimpse of the big stage that some of them hope to one day play on.
Every year, the Mohawks play as part of the Battle of the Bluffs, a baseball tournament at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs. The tournament is geared toward getting participating teams to play teams from different part of the state.
This year, Mason City played Pleasant Valley on Friday. The games are scheduled early, so teams have time to get over to Omaha for the College World Series opening festivities, and opening games on Saturday.
The trips are funded by the Mason City booster club, and is meant to not only give the team a chance to play more baseball, but also experience one of baseball’s most beloved traditions.
The Mohawks attended the opening ceremony, which included skydivers, player introductions, and performance by the Eli Young Band.
“We stayed overnight and then went out to the opening game, which was Michigan vs. Texas Tech, and then we headed back after that,” coach Troy Rood said. “They were pretty jacked about it. They had fun with it. “
The team also has a yearly theme that most of the players participate in.
“We’ve had years where it was a Hawaiian theme, where all of the guys wear Hawaiian t-shirts,” Rood said. “There was another year where they have mustaches. They grow the little hair that they can grow under their nose and die that black. They’ve had haircuts. They do things for team bonding. Things that make it really fun and memorable. It’s a great experience.”
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Most of the players' families make the trek, too, making the weekend not just a player experience, but a family bonding activity.
For the players, the trip is a chance to see baseball at the next level. Only the best teams in college baseball get a chance to compete in the College World Series. But aside from the baseball, it’s a chance for the players to hang out with their teammates, hang out in hotels, and just have fun.
“It’s a pretty neat experience,” senior Brandon Reich said. “Growing up, I never thought I’d make it down there. It was great. You go down there, play a couple games, this year we only played one. You get to hang out with your friends, go out to eat. It’s a bonding experience too. This year, somebody brought the PlayStation and we played that pretty deep into the night.”
All the showmanship that goes into the ceremony and the games makes the experience a memorable one for high school players. Not only is it a fun weekend, it shows them what they could someday accomplish, with plenty of hard work.
“Going there, when you walk in, it’s like ‘Wow, this would be nuts.’ I want to play here," Reich said. "You look up to them. They’re the next level of baseball players. As a senior, it could happen to a couple of our teammates. Seeing how nice it is, how many people show up, and how much they care about it, it would be awesome to play in this atmosphere.”
Rood says that the trip is important because it helps his ballplayers learn to appreciate the game and its history. With all the distractions in their lives right now, Rood says, fewer kids watch baseball than ever before.
“We like it anytime we can expose them to higher levels of baseball, whether that be Division I or professional baseball, so they can appreciate who the players are, how beautiful this game is, and can be,” Rood said.
It’s something the team looks forward to every year, where special memories are made, and team history is captured.
“We’ve had a team picture by that statute right out in front of Ameritrade Field for seven years now, Rood said. “It’s always a special picture for us every year.”