Tag Archives: college

Remembering Rosenblatt guru Steve Pivovar

As I meandered around the Infield at the Zoo monument at the sight where Rosenblatt Stadium once stood, I came across a plaque that touched my heart more than any other feature on display.

The plaque reads:

Steve Pivovar was a sports writer for the Omaha World-Herald for 45 years. He was a loyal son of South Omaha and covered many sports at the World-Herald, but his passion was baseball and he was a good friend and guardian of the College World Series and Rosenblatt Stadium. Known for his old-school work ethic, he covered 500 consecutive CWS games and his spirit lives on here with the players and coaches he followed. 1952 – 2016

Here are some excerpts from Pivovar’s obituary in the Omaha World-Herald:

  • Pivovar’s commitment is best illustrated in his dispatches from Rosenblatt Stadium. He covered approximately 1,700 games at the stadium, writing about the CWS and Omaha Royals.
  • “Maybe it was South Omaha roots, but Pivovar didn’t believe in shortcuts. You earned your way. You showed up early and stayed late,” said Eric Olson of the Associated Press.
  • In 2010, Pivovar penned “Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha’s Diamond on the Hill,” a World-Herald book that became a collector’s item for CWS junkies.

Read Steve Pivovar’s complete obituary on omaha.com>>

I met Steve in the Rosenblatt Stadium press box in 2010 during my blogfest of the last College World Series held at the Blatt. We had exchanged pleasantries a few times via social media and we shared a brotherhood in being S.O.B.s (South Omaha Boys). Like Steve, I had also worked for the Omaha World-Herald; as a newspaper carrier in my youth, then as an advertising intern in college.

During the epic Oklahoma – South Carolina rain delay I introduced myself to Steve and asked if he would autograph a copy of his book I had purchased. He obliged, but only after escorting me from his front row seat of the press section up to a small room that housed packets of team stats and other info. He said he didn’t like to do “that sort of thing” in the working area. Here was a legendary journalist exercising a great act of humility in the midst of his peers.

Even though Steve had literally written the book on Rosenblatt memories, he thanked me for the work I was doing and encouraged me to keep it up. I became an instant fan of Steve and his work. I continued to follow his stories up until his health would no longer allow him to work. Today, I am honored to have met Steve and worked in his presence. I still pick up the book and thumb through it from time to time.

Rest in peace, good man. Rest in peace.


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Filed under Baseball, College World Series, History, Social Media, Tributes

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Rosenblatt Stadium

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot in place of Rosenblatt Stadium. Photo by Drew Fann

by Paul Fiarkoski

Drew Fann is a true fan of the Blatt. He snapped the picture above on a visit to Omaha in 2014 and posted it on Twitter. The image captures the essence of the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell that begins with the lyrics, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

The song continues:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Is that not the Rosenblatt Stadium story?

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A Rosenblatt lover’s review of TD Ameritrade Park

I am aware that dozens of writers have already made comparisons of Omaha’s new TD Ameritrade Park to the condemned Rosenblatt Stadium three miles to the south. However, I feel like I needed to write one on behalf of the people who really loved Rosenblatt Stadium. If you’re looking for the quick conclusion to my review, here it is: I liked the overall experience at Rosenblatt way better!

Need more background? Read What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium>>

My first visit to TD Ameritrade Park was the evening of day four of the 2011 College World Series. I arrived so late in the game that I didn’t bother going to the game. I parked my car at an open meter about three blocks south and wandered around the new baseball village that is reportedly owned in part by Omaha’s former mayor who was in charge at the time the decision for a new stadium was made. I was rather impressed with the layout of the “village”, although it really lacked people on that night. As I continued my stroll around the vicinity I was hit with the overwhelming feeling of “where am I?” Twenty years earlier I served a summer internship for the Omaha World-Herald in the same general area and spent quite a bit in north downtown. On this visit back to the area I did not recognize it whatsoever. I remember thinking to myself as I jumped back in my car to go meet some people in the Old Market, “why wasn’t this here when I lived in Omaha?”

I went back a few nights later for a cold one after covering the marathon Friday night game between Virginia and South Carolina and the place was crawling with drunks. About thirty minutes before every other bar in Omaha celebrates last call, I was forced to toss a quarter of my 40 of Bud Light when the testosterone fortified security personnel (off-duty Omaha Police officers) told me I, and everyone else, had to leave. Shortly after being herded out like a cow being prodded to the kill floor of a South Omaha packing plant, I thought I was going to have to duke it out with an intoxicated muscle head who tried to throw a shoulder at me just outside the village.

Parking & tailgating
Day five of the College World Series was my first day to go inside the new stadium. Before going in, I had to park in Lot D featuring the bubbling spring on the north end. I arrived 90 minutes before the game parked at the far east edge of the lot to preserve up close spots for other fans. (Clue: there were never empty spots at Rosenblatt 90 minutes before a game.) The few tailgate parties I saw paled in comparison to Rosenblatt tailgates by a long shot. There were no smokers or deep fryers; just a few coolers and propane fired tailgate grills. The most active gathering I saw was a gathering of about a dozen people around a tent near the space closest to the stadium. It was clear from the banners they flew proudly that the party’s underwriter was the advertising agency of record for College World Series Omaha, Inc.

Press box
Once inside the business end of the stadium I got a taste of what others mean when they have said the new stadium is “sterile”. I felt like I was in a hospital. I am not alone in my assessment that the press box set up was much better at Rosenblatt. I overheard one reporter say he felt like he was covering the games in a library. My particular beef with the press box at TD Ameritrade is that the glass panes are narrower than at Rosenblatt, so you have more vertical lines disrupting your view. On Day 1 of the series, a number of media members complained on Twitter about spotty wifi access in the press box. I’m sorry, but that should not happen at a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium. Even the press box at 62 year-old Rosenblatt Stadium had good wifi.

The next day I vowed to get out into the stadium to get a taste of the fan experience. To say the least, I was impressed. Some have said TD Ameritrade Park has a big league feel to it. I would say it doesn’t. It’s actually better. Most big league parks are so big that you don’t feel like you’re close to the action. I tested out numerous vantage points from around the main level and all the views of the field were great. I did not make it to the upper deck. While I’m on the topic of views, I much preferred the view of treetops and the valley beyond at Rosenblatt than the buildings poking up around downtown Omaha. Regarding the grass on the field I have mixed feelings. It sure looked pretty; however, since the most common question I heard about the turf was whether it was real (it is), I would have to give it a thumbs down.

On the topic of the new stadium experience becoming the corporate world series as some have suggested, I have to say that it wasn’t as corporate as I expected. Even in the area surrounding the stadium, I didn’t get the overwhelming feeling of being suffocated by commercialism. In fact, I would say that by draping a huge tarp of some kind over the TD Ameritrade sign above the scoreboard, the NCAA would strike virtually all commercialism from the College World Series experience. Unlike at MLB or minor league games, where nearly every turning point in the game is sponsored by somebody, you just don’t get that at the Trade during the CWS. A few weeks prior to the CWS, I did notice during an ESPN broadcast of a Creighton-Nebraska game that the on-deck circle was emblazoned with the logo of a large Omaha bank. Still, that didn’t detract from the game. Anyone not familiar with the bank wouldn’t have even known it was a logo.

The scoreboard and video reply monitor at TD Park does not stack up to the one at Rosenblatt. If it’s not smaller, it sure looks like it and it doesn’t display as much information. At Rosenblatt, you could see information not just about the current batter, but you could also see who else was in the lineup. Not so at TD. Others have told me that the lineup is displayed at TD, but it’s definitely not as present as it was at Rosenblatt. The other thing I liked seeing at Rosenblatt was the pitch speed display. I looked all over and couldn’t find the pitch speed anywhere at the new stadium. One final gripe I have about the scoreboard is that everytime I look at it, I am reminded how much money I have lost in my IRA at TD Ameritrade and how difficult their statements are to read (zing!). Remember the arched Rosenblatt sign over the scoreboard at Rosenblatt? What a classic!

One thing that is vastly improved at TD is the concessions. Truthfully, I only bought a pretzel and a souvenir cup of Dr. Pepper but there was virtually no wait, and the ambience was much more inviting than at Rosenblatt. The people I am happiest for in the whole move to the new stadium are the concessions workers. I always felt bad for the sweaty folks working in the hot, cramped confines of the Rosenblatt concession stands. My younger sister was one of them once upon a time. I’m glad that they can now work in greater comfort. The menu boards are attractive and easy to read too. One myth about TD Ameritrade is that you can watch the game while you stand in line. I actually lost my place in line because I heard the crowd roar and ran to the railing to see what caused the ruckus. By the way, the railing around the lower reserved seats is a nice touch. I like the fact that you can set a drink on the narrow counter top or take notes if you want to.

On a personal note, I was bummed that you can no longer buy the curly fries inside the stadium. I always looked forward to the curly fries at Rosenblatt. Nor can you buy an Omaha Steaks sandwich at the stadium or have a cold “Jesus” water handed to you on the way in. These things may be available down at the corporate Baseball Village a few blocks away (I didn’t bother to find out), but not in or immediately around the stadium. Most people won’t even notice since Famous Daves BBQ sandwiches and plenty of other goodies are still available.

The statue
I can summarize what has happened to the famous Road to Omaha statue in one word: gag! They relocated it from Rosenblatt and placed it right in front of a bland, colorless, tiered concrete wall flanked by the arched stairways leading into the main stadium entrance behind home plate. In its current location, it’s virtually impossible for fans (or players) to get a picture in front of the statue without including people walking up the stairs or the tacky TD Ameritrade side in the background. I saw team pictures shot from a virtual profile angle in order to get everyone in the picture. In order to stand far enough back to get a group photo straight on, the photographer would be standing in the street. Thankfully, somebody had the good sense to plop a few bushes in behind the statue prior to the 2011 College World Series, so as to give a little color to the backdrop.

The stadium lights
I’m sure the stadium lights at TD Ameritrade are far superior in terms of candle power and efficiency or whatever metric stadium lights are evaluated by. Dozens of very luminous bulbs are stretched across a bar of metal that measure 40 to 50 feet long on all sides of the stadium. There was certainly no lack of visibility during the night games. Still, I prefer the old school lights perched high above Rosenblatt. One other thing about the lights at the Trade is that the light structure rising above the third base side of the stadium casts an odd, rapidly moving shadow on the field for an hour or so before sundown.

I may think of more attributes to cover and add them to this post at a later date. Please don’t take my word for it. You owe it to yourself to go and form your own opinions, especially those of you who have experienced Rosenblatt.

My conclusion is this: there was something infectious about Rosenblatt that made you want to come back again and again. Having spent several days at the new stadium, my feeling when I left was “Okay I saw it, so what?” I liked the overall experience at Rosenblatt way better!


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Remembering Rosenblatt Stadium: the fence debacle of 2010

For an undisclosed reason, the City of Omaha decided 2010 was a good year to secure the entire Rosenblatt Stadium campus with a 6-foot-high chain link fence, allowing admittance only through designated entry points and disrupting traditions that fans had built over a few decades.

In years past, locals traditionally staked out their tailgating spots up to a week in advance by putting out the frame of their party tents. They would chain the frame to a tree, light pole or other stationary object, then come back when the College World Series started to install the canopy and layout the rest of their party.

Tailgating tent frames at Rosenblatt

Tent frames stake out would-be tailgating spots one week before the start of CWS 2010

Shortly after the tent frames shown here went up in 2010, there was a media blitz in Omaha telling people to come take down their tents because “maintenance crews needed to mow the grass”. Any tent frames still there the Monday leading up to the College World Series were going to be disposed of, people were warned.  One fan reportedly traveled all the way from Chicago to remove his tent.

Come Monday morning, the city did more than mow. They swiftly erected a temporary but stable six-foot high chain link fence, in effect closing off access to tailgate parties to anyone who didn’t have a reserved parking space.

Following are the reactions of a few Rosenblatt Stadium fans on Facebook when news of the fence broke:

“They fenced in the ENTIRE lot … no more ability to leave your tailgate up in the grassy areas. You have to have a parking pass and set up/break down every night. And you can’t “walk” beer into a tailgate … it has to come in via car. Absolute travesty.”  Marc Pena

“I like some of it. I always wandered how the same people always got the grass spots. You should have to pack up and leave every night. There isn’t going to be any tailgating at the one downtown so probably just getting you ready for what is to come.” Jeff Sila

“The last year at Rosenblatt for CWS. Fans and supporters have come to love the place, the atmosphere, the operations as they are — good, bad, quirky or whatever. So the city decides to make this adjustment and change the experience for the last year. I don’t get it. The cries of “efficiency” fall on deaf ears when I consider other areas of city responsibilities.” Mark Kirchhoff 

“Sure you can put them [awnings] out, if you are somehow lucky enough to get told to park by a median, then you have to take them down and start over the next day. Grrrrrr!!!!!” Kelly Secord Cheshier

“The neighborhood might be ready, but the tailgaters are ticked that the city won’t let them put up their tents on the grounds any longer.” Sean Weide

The party went on, but the festivities paled in comparison to prior years. What I experienced during College World Series 2010 were folks sort of going through the motions as I detailed in my blog entry, The Ten Day Funeral.

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My love-hate relationship with the NCAA

I love NCAA athletic events. College football was my first love. Having grown up in Nebraska it was a natural choice. Husker football is religion in Nebraska.  After I moved to Colorado, I expanded my horizons a little. I’ve dabbled in college hockey, basketball, soccer and gymnastics. Recently, I even watched a regional college golf tournament that was being hosted at the golf course in my neighborhood.

Is there anything more inspiring than watching amateur athletes pour their heart and soul into the fight? For them, the victory usually means nothing more than bragging rights or the thrill of hoisting a trophy above their heads. That moment of victory makes all blood, sweat and tears they put into there sport worth it.  No salary, no retirement pension, no cash bonus. Just tuition assistance (for some), and a little notoriety once in a while.

Even though I am a terrible golfer and have actually come to loathe the sport, I couldn’t resist the urge to go watch last week. The feeling took over me when I approached our subdivision from the adjacent highway and saw the NCAA Regional Championships banner prominently place into a well manicured patch of turf.

Without the aid of TV announcers or subtitles I had no idea who the players were that I watched, but I know they were the best players from the best golf programs in the region. Not a touch of arrogance about them whatsoever, each player carefully studied the course, assessed the conditions and played his best shots. Meanwhile, officials hovered over the finalists, presumably to make sure they didn’t take any extra swings or get any tips from folks like me.

My initiation to the NCAA as a governing body came around 2005 when I heard about a dispute between the NCAA and Jeremy Bloom, a University of Colorado athlete. As bright as Bloom’s athleticism shown on the football field, he was even more dazzling on skis.

Bloom was seeking sponsors to help fund his travel and training in order to prepare for the 2006 Olympics. The NCAA stepped in and said that he was violating the “code” of amateur athletes. Thankfully, Bloom persisted. While he was declared permanently ineligible to play football by the NCAA for accepting sponsorship money, his career includes two trips to the Winter Olympics and a stint in the NFL.

In a recent interview, I heard Bloom share his perspective on what it felt like to walk around campus seeing his name on the back of jerseys worn by fellow students knowing that while he received no compensation for the sale of his name, the gear maker, university and the NCAA were all cashing in on his name.

On September 2, 2010, I attended a Colorado Rockies baseball game in Denver with a couple of buddies who were former NCAA athletes. Back in my childhood neighborhood in Omaha, the final baseball game ever was being played at Rosenblatt Stadium. I could hardly focus on the MLB game before me as I continually checked my smart phone for Twitter posts from fans at last Omaha Royals game at the legendary stadium.

A few beers into our guys night out, one of my pals commented on my obsession with my phone. That’s when I blubbered a comment about the NCAA ruining one of the best experiences in college sports by threatening to move the College World Series from Omaha if a new stadium were not built. I followed with the sentiment that the NCAA stands for Nazi Control of Amateur Athletics.

We toasted with our beer cups as both emphatically agreed with my assessment, then each proceeded to share their own experiences of how NCAA rules made life in college hell for them.

My statement was based mostly on the experiences I had at the College World Series a couple of months earlier. I had been recruited by a college baseball blogging site to come and help cover the last College World Series Rosenblatt. The opportunity afforded me an in-depth look at how the NCAA does things behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong, most of what they do is necessary to help prevent chaos. Yet, they have implemented such strict rules governing behavior in the press box and a post-game conferences that it’s a challenge for reporters to produce a unique story.

As if the rules weren’t enough, the aspect of control that still stands out most for me was how the water cups bearing the name of a prominent NCAA sponsor were carefully placed as props on the table for players and coaches who would face the press. Interestingly, in roughly ten days of press conferences I think I saw only one player drink from his cup.

Still, the relationship continues. I love college sports more than ever. The NCAA I could live without.

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Creighton changed everything

Prior to 1991 people didn’t wait in line to watch baseball at Rosenblatt. Then Creighton changed everything.

I wasn’t much of a fan of Creighton growing up. The school just didn’t do anything for me. It produced doctors, lawyers and politicians – the kinds of people I was told as a kid I shouldn’t associate with. And besides, my family could never afford to send me to school there. It’s where rich kids go to school, I was taught.

I used to love it when one of my professors at UNO (Univ. of Nebraska, Omaha) worked little digs into his lecture about companies hiring “cheap Creighton grads.”

Having graduated from UNO in 1990, I entered what may have been the happiest phase of my life. I was twenty-three, free from the burdens of school and stayed in great shape tending to the landscapes of many of Omaha’s aforementioned doctors, lawyers and politicians. They really opened my eyes. Not all rich people were heartless money grubbers as I had been led to believe. I learned they valued hard work and doing a good job as much as I did. They rewarded me with repeat business and referrals to the point I had to start turning down clients.

Something else happened in 1990 to change my perspective of Creighton. A friend of a friend invited me to play volleyball on a league at the Bluejay Bar on the southwestern edge of campus. At the time I was sharing a house with a buddy about three minutes away. I loved playing volleyball, drinking beer and the opportunity to meet chicks, so how could I refuse?

Over the course of the summer, I discovered Creighton kids were no different than those of us who went to the “other” university in town. They liked beer, volleyball and loud music as much as I did.

Next door to the Bluejay was Stan’s Barbershop. I traded philosophies with Stan one night over a beer after a volleyball match. Then he became my barber. I was now getting my hair cut in the same shop as Creighton kids.

I grew to know and appreciate a number of Creightonians that summer. They even invited me to a wine and cheese social known as Jazz on the Green at the nearby Joslyn Art Museum, the curator of which was a client of mine.

What was happening to me? “How long could I keep this secret life from my friends in South O?” I wondered.

The next summer, in 1991, it would all become okay. That’s when Creighton’s baseball team somehow accomplished a feat no school from Nebraska had done before them. They earned a trip to the College World Series. Okay, the trip was just across town, but they would compete with the seven other best college teams in my neck of the woods, at Rosenblatt Stadium. For an entire week, it seemed like everyone in Omaha swapped out their Husker red for Bluejay blue.

Before 1991, getting tickets to the College World Series was like getting a ticket to a matinee movie. There were times I had so many offers for free tickets from friends that I became choosy about whose seats I would accept. We all knew that if you had a ticket to a game it was like a day pass to all the games being played that day.

Enter the Creighton Bluejays into the tournament and all bets were off. The College World Series instantly became the hottest ticket in town. It seemed like everyone I knew was loading up on the ticket books being sold at local grocery stores. Even my new girlfriend and I bought tickets.

Wendi and I began dating in January. At the time, Wendi still lived with her mom about three blocks west of Rosenblatt’s home plate. That meant free parking and easy access to the stadium whenever we wanted. We continued to leveraged the benefit well after we married and moved out of town, clear up until the final season in 2010.

I’m ashamed to admit that without the help of the internet I wouldn’t be able to tell you a single player’s name from the 1991 team. Nor could I remember the coaches’ names, nor how many games Creighton played or how well they played. What I can tell you is that the one Creighton game we attended at Rosenblatt was packed. Plus, it was hot as hell. We waited at least two hours in the general admission line out past the third baseline stands just to get in. Then, we got baked in our old-school wooden bleacher seats just beyond the left field wall. I don’t think I ever drank so many three dollar Sprites before or since.

According to the record books, Creighton went two and two in the 1991 tournament. Both losses were to conference rival Wichita State. It didn’t matter that they didn’t play for the championship. By making it into the top eight they earned the respect of college baseball fans. More importantly, they made believers out of the people of Omaha. In so doing, they gave the College World Series a boost past the proverbial tipping point.

There is no doubt in my mind that the 1991 Creighton team drew thousands of people out to Rosenblatt that may have otherwise never stepped foot inside the grand old ballpark. Apparently they liked what they saw. If you look at the stadium’s history on a timeline, it’s clearly evident that Creighton’s presence at the College World Series, along with greater tv coverage, was the catalyst for a boom era at Rosenblatt.

In the twenty years since Creighton’s debut at the College World Series, numerous renovations and upgrades to the tune of millions of dollars nearly doubled the seating capacity of the stadium.

Much to my disappointment, the Rosenblatt Stadium era has come to an end. This year the CWS moves to a new stadium just blocks from the Creighton campus. Having won the Missouri Valley Conference championship in the regular season, Creighton earned a spot in the NCAA tournament of sixty-four teams. It seems the Jays are intent on making an impact at the new stadium too.

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Ticket unscalping at the College World Series (2009)

Read on for a humorous story about my experience with an “unscalper” at Rosenblatt Stadium during the 2009 College World Series.

I have been to enough sporting events to develop a tactic for dealing with scalpers. There’s nothing really earth shattering about the technique; it’s just an application of the principles of supply and demand taught in Economics courses for decades. Here’s how it works: I wait until the game is well under way before I show any interest in needing tickets. Scalpers start to realize that if they don’t recoup their costs then they’ll lose money. This gives the buyer (me) much greater leverage.

And so it played out on the Friday night game of the CWS in June 2009. My wife and I had already sat through a rain-delayed day game and just hadn’t seen enough action, so we decided to stick around for the classic night game featuring Texas and Arizona State. We calmly waited and watched the first two innings on the tube underneath the pavillion just south of the main entrance. Then, it was time to put the plan into action.

As we neared the front entrance, I scanned the faces of those who lingered out front. A raised hand with tickets is a sure sign the party is ready to do business. At a glance, you can tell pro ticket scalpers from the inexperienced. I had no intent on haggling with a pro. Face value was the most I would pay. Into sight walked my target – a twentysomething chap outfitted in flip-flops, denim and Horns shirt and cap. As he walked the wrong way out of the front entrance, he fumbled, almost as an afterthought, to remove the merchandise from his back pocket.

Clearly NOT a pro at ticket sales, this guy was obviously well rehearsed in tailgating. It was my first impression that the lad with whom I was about to enter into my most memorable ticket transaction ever had spent extra innings at the tailgate party in the preceding hours. Eyes bloodshot, breath wreaking of some putrid combination of Jack Daniels, Fat Tire and ganja he was desperate to get rid of these tickets. But he knew his price.

As we began to haggle, he guaranteed the tickets had not yet been used and that his effin friend stood him up and stayed back at the hotel. We began to talk price. “All I want is what I paid for them – $20 plus the friggin’ $4.50 handling fee.”

My turn: “Okay so you want $50 for both of them?” as I started to count out the cash. “NO, dammit; I want effin $49 for them – just what I paid!”

I handed him fifty bucks. As he began to dig around for my dollar in change, I caved. Going against my original plan to pay no more than face value, I let him keep the buck. Partly out of respect, but mostly because I was too impatient to wait for him.

Then the good ole boy did something no scalper has ever done. He escorted my wife and me to the gate to make sure we were able to get in with the tickets. “See!?” he hollered through the bars of the fence, “I told you they were good!” Then he meandered on in his orignal direction, presumably back to the tailgate tent.

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