Tuesday night, as the gates opened at TD Ameritrade Ballpark in Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time, there was one thing in the back of everyone's mind. It was not the upcoming game between Nebraska and Creighton. It was not even the frigid 40 degree temperatures at game time. It was the ballpark that TD Ameritrade was replacing: Rosenblatt Stadium.
For much of the past two years, since city officials announced plans to build a new downtown ballpark to take over as host for the College World Series, there has been a palpable tension among college baseball die-hards about replacing a venue which had become synonymous with the sport.
Sure, Rosenblatt was old and outdated, but it was home.
It was not just home to natives of Omaha who grew up going to the College World Series at Rosenblatt. It was home to LSU, Florida State, USC, Stanford and every other baseball powerhouse that wanted to be in Omaha, Nebraska, more than any other place in the world. The city did its best to make Rosenblatt modern, updating and expanding it at every opportunity, but there is only so much that can be done to a stadium that was built in the 1940s.
The decision was made (as much by the NCAA as the city of Omaha) that in order for the city to keep the College World Series, a new stadium was needed. Debates were started, petitions were signed and protests were held, but progress could not be stopped.
All of that led up to Tuesday night, April 19, 2011. While games between Nebraska and Creighton are historically well attended, the announced crowd of over 22,000 (probably closer to 15,000 to 18,000 because of the weather) was not there because of the Huskers and Bluejays. This was the first chance to see TD Ameritrade Ballpark in all of its splendor, and it was spectacular.
I have attended College World Series games at Rosenblatt since I was eight years old, as well as the minor league games it hosted for a few years before that. The first College World Series game I ever attended was the 1996 Championship Game in which Warren Morris of LSU hit a walk-off home run to win the national title.
I survived and occasionally outran tornado warnings from that stadium. If anyone had an emotional attachment to Rosenblatt Stadium, it was me.
I was one of the brave few that stayed until the game was completed; I could not have asked for anything more out of a new stadium. There was not even the smallest part of me that wished I was at the old 'Blatt last night instead of the new TD Ameritrade Ballpark.
The new stadium has brought the Major League Baseball feel of the game to the venue that will host college baseball's premier event. I spent a large amount of my time at the game last night just walking around, taking everything in and I was in awe the entire time.
I had incredibly high expectations for TD Ameritrade Ballpark, and it met and surpassed all of them.
If you are a college baseball fan who is hesitant about coming to the College World Series fearing you will miss your old friend Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, do not let that stop you from helping Omaha bring in the new era of the College World Series.
I know it is almost impossible to replace a legend, but the city of Omaha did it right.