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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

The last meeting of Texas and Arizona State at Rosenblatt Stadium (2009)

Most of my Rosenblatt memories are about the stadium itself, or the fan experience. However, a few baseball moments stand out in my mind. One such moment was the second TexasArizona State matchup of the 2009 College World Series, a game I attended with my wife, Wendi. We had watched the two teams play earlier in the week in a game that would go the Longhorns’ way. Since we were in Omaha on our summer vacation, we took the kids camping for a couple nights at Lake Panorama in central Iowa where my parents spend their summers.

On our drive back to the Big O Friday morning, I received a call from my sister in Omaha who had won some tickets at work to attend the day game between LSU and Arkansas. She wanted me to join her for the game in the box seats just beyond first base. I exercised married guy logic and took only a second to give her the affirmative response, then checked with my wife to see if it was okay.

Wendi (left) with friends Anna and Mary at the rain-delayed day game between LSU & Arkansas

Moments later Wendi received a call from a friend who also landed tickets for the afternoon game – about five rows behind home plate. So here we were, both going to the game on free tickets with hardly any notice. That’s just how it works in Omaha sometimes. We patiently sat a couple hours through a rain delay in our ponchos until they were able to get the game in.

When Wendi and I met up in front of the stadium after the game, I announced that I would like to go to the night game as well. Considering we had driven two hours from Iowa that morning, then sat through about five hours combined of baseball and rain delay, I figured the prospect of a night game would be a hard sell. I figured wrong. By the promptness of her acceptance of my “one more game” proposal, it was evident Wendi had also been bitten by the CWS bug.

Read how we got tickets from an unscalper>>

My date and I made a pitstop at the Curly Fries station and picked up a couple sodas en route to our seats. Then we got acquainted with our neighbors in the upper-most section near the end of the third-base foul line and settled in for some championship baseball.

The sun was now fading behind us and the humidity that was so uncomfortable around 3 pm had burned off. Splendid weather, splendid view.

With it’s rainbow of colors and the varying height of structures, Rosenblatt Stadium was always a treat for the eyes. On this night there was a unique aura about the place. I hadn’t even been drinking and the players seemed to project a sort of glow about them. Based on our position in the stadium, we couldn’t hear the voices of the coaches or players. Even the public address system seemed distant on this night. The crowd noise possessed somewhat of a buzz too. In short, it fealt more as if we were observing the game from heaven than actually participating in the event.

Texas-ASU 2009

Last matchup between Texas & ASU at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium (2009)

Even though a couple innings had passed before we got to our seats, we had missed almost no action. The scoreboard displayed zeros at the top of the third. That was about to change. Arizona State chocked up a run, to be quickly matched by Texas. This back and forth went on through the fifth inning, at which point the game was tied at two a piece. Neither team scored again until the top of the ninth. ASU put up one run and seemed destined to win this thing if Texas didn’t come up with some big bats. They did.

The slow-mo wave
As a spectator I could just sense something special was about to happen. With one out, Texas catcher Cameron Rupp stepped up to the plate. The anxiety was building with this raucous, sold-out Friday night crowd. Almost exactly opposite Rupp in the left-center bleachers, a slow-motion wave spontaneously erupted. I know, the wave shouldn’t be done at baseball games but stick with me.

How the fans to the left of the crew that initiated the wave knew at what pace to join the cause is beyond me, but the sight was spectacular. The wave somehow trickled its way across the break in bleachers at dead center and caterpillared its way across the right field bleachers. It inched along the stands behind the first base line, around the backstop, across the seats behind third, and eventually over to our section.

The suspense and pressure was killing me. At this moment I couldn’t focus on what the count was, or what the batter was doing. I only knew that I could ruin the most perfect wave in college baseball history if I arose from my seat one nanosecond too soon. With the help of my wife, my timing was precise. The wave made it to the end of our row, disappeared for a moment and was picked up perfectly by the watchful fans in left field.

A solo homerun, then a walk-off homer
Eyes back to the field. I only remember seeing Rupp take one swing at the ball. It was the swing that tied the game at threes. Pitch, swing, dink, crowd noise is how I remember it. It happened just as the slow-mow wave made it almost back to it’s origin. After watching the ball launch into the outfield crowd, my wife and I cheered and looked at each other in stunned amazement. Extra innings would extend our long day just a little bit longer – or so we thought.

Connor Rowe had other plans. With the game tied at three, nobody on base and facing two outs, Rowe no doubt knew the kind of pressure I fealt moments earlier with my role in the wave as he approached the plate. Would you believe that just as all eyes focused on Rowe and when the tension couldn’t get any thicker, up popped another slow-motion wave out of left-center field?

Here we go again. The dilemma: do I watch the wave or the batter. I managed to do both. I don’t know how Rowe did it with all the distractions, but somehow he was able to focus only on the pitcher and the task at hand. It happened again. However, this time the pitch-swing-dink was punctuated by a louder roar than I have ever heard at Rosenblatt (this was prior to the 2010 grand slam by TCU’s Matt Curry) as Rowe conducted a slow motion wave of his own around the infield bases into the waiting arms of his team.

The electricity continued to buzz as fans filed out of the stadium and into the night, each recounting in their own way Connor Rowe’s walk-off homer that earned Texas a 4-3 win and a spot in the three-game championship series with LSU a few nights later.

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NET Nebraska debuts documentary: Rosenblatt – The Final Inning

When I was back in Omaha for the College World Series in 2010 I snapped this picture of the NET Nebraska (PBS) crew that was shooting the documentary about Rosenblatt Stadium called Rosenblatt: The Final Inning.

NET Nebraska crew

NET Nebraska crew films a clip for Rosenblatt - The Final Inning at the 2010 College World Series

Next thing I knew, they had a mic on me and the camera in my face. The premier showing is Saturday, June 11 at 7 pm CT at which time I’ll find out if I said anything stupid. From what I understand this production will be quite a bit different from the video released by the NCAA in 2010 in that it covers more than just the history of college baseball at Rosenblatt. Make sure you tune in or set your DVR.

For those of you outside the Omaha & Lincoln metro areas you can watch a live webcast online at www.netnebraska.org. I’ll have to watch online too. Check out the teaser clip now.

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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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2009: The last Great College World Series

Shortly before this writing Texas beat LSU in game two of the 2009 College World Series finals, settling the best of three series score at 1-1.  Tomorrow night one of these teams will celebrate their title as champions by engaging in the age old tradition of the dogpile.  No matter the outcome, College World Series fans will be treated to one more incredible experience that can be delivered at no place like Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium.  A year from now, one team will have won the right to exercise the final dogpile at Rosenblatt.

A week ago, I arose at 5:15 am to join the throngs of fans who have learned the only way to get a reserved seat during the College World Series is to get there early or to pay a premium.  I did it to make sure my kids got to experience Rosenblatt’s signature event.  We spent the entire week at Grandma’s house (three short blocks west of home plate) immersing ourselves in every aspect of the CWS experience.  Standing in lines, tailgating, Fan Fest, vendor tents, day games, night games, extra innings, box seats, obstructed seats, rain delays, intense heat, curly fries – we did it all.  Only time will tell whether or not the kids appreciated or not, but I will savor every moment forever.

Now a resident of Colorado, I grew up in South Omaha about a mile west of Rosenblatt and have attended dozens of ballgames, concerts, tractor pulls, etc. at the stadium.  Like so many others who have fallen in love with Rosenblatt over the years, I know that the end of the Rosenblatt era is going to come all too soon.  I know I’m not the only one who is still in disbelief that politics and money will reduce this relic of a stadium to dust a couple years from now.

For college baseball players and their fans, Omaha will still be the goal for years to come.  But for me, the College World Series just won’t have the allure once the Blatt is gone.

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