Standing in the parking lot that was once referred to as "Dingerville", I feel a bit like I am looking up at a hallowed grave site as opposed to an old baseball stadium.
In a way, I suppose I am. Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium represents the past life of a city. It is a symbol of pride, monumental achievement and great memories from over a half a century.
Rosenblatt hosted its last College World Series game in 2010. Later that year, the Omaha Royals (now the Storm Chasers) and Omaha Nighthawks (United Football League) would play in the final sporting events the stadium would ever host.
For the past two years, Omaha's diamond on the hill has sat empty. Seats, scoreboards, bases, dirt and grass have been removed and sold off or donated. All that remains is the shell.
Words can't express what Rosenblatt has meant to the people of Omaha. The best I can do is tell you about my wife, an Omaha native who couldn't care less about 99% of what goes on in the sports world. Every time we drive past the old grounds, however, she shakes her head, sometimes with her eyes watering as if we are passing the final resting place of a loved one. "It doesn't seem right", she says. No, no it doesn't.
The College World Series and the city of Omaha have moved on for the most part. The shiny new digs of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha's new north-downtown district is now where the NCAA crowns its baseball champion. 2011 was considered by many a dress rehearsal for the new location. Now, in 2012, the kinks have been ironed out and first-time visitors to Omaha would never know Rosenblatt ever existed.
The important thing to know is that it did and still does, at least for a couple more weeks. This week, the city of Omaha and the College World Series are opening up the grounds of Rosenblatt one last time before they tear it down after this year's series. It will be the last chance for people to seal their memories with a photo or a game of catch in the dirt that was once the greenest grass in the universe.
Whether you've been coming to the series for years or this is your first time, do the old gem a favor and stop by. Thank Johnny for the memories. Grab a handful of dirt and put it in a jar as a keepsake. Take pictures of your kids and share your stories of the real field of dreams.
By all means, pay your respects to the passing of an American icon, and a time when things were right, pure, and free from the commercialization revolution.
Don't forget your glove. And maybe a box of tissues.
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