Many of the tens of thousands of people who attend the College World Series are die-hard baseball fans, former players and alums.
But Jim Scanlan simply stopped in Omaha at the right time while riding his motorcycle through the Midwest.
Scanlan met up with a few of his buddies in Omaha about 15 years ago. While walking outside Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, the group stumbled across a group of fans rooting for LSU.
“I wasn’t even a baseball fan, but now I am and these LSU people, if it was roadkill and you could deep fat fry it, they could would cook it up,” said Scanlan, who made the trek from his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado . “They’re so generous they would give it to everybody.”
Nearly 50,000 people attended Saturday’s two games in the College World Series, which has moved from Rosenblatt to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
But others like Scanlan simply enjoyed the atmosphere, food and camaraderie outside the stadium gates. Propped-up tents, plugged in flatscreens and the scent of grilled, seasoned meat occupy a path adjacent TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
There might even be an adult beverage or two.
Some of the fans have come since the beginning when Omaha first played host to the College World Series in 1950. Others are coming for the first time.
“A lot of the people that have these spots are here every year,” said Scott Ohnoutka of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “So you get to have a little camaraderie with a lot of people.”
Ohnoutka married into a family with tickets and has been coming to Omaha for the last 25 years or so. He estimated the contingency at his tailgate would grow to about 50 or so.
On Saturday, he wore an Oklahoma State sun hat. Asked whether he was a fan, he laughed and said he would pull for Texas Tech.
“I’m a Red Raider fan,” he said. “I got the (Oklahoma State) hat because I like the colors.”
Omaha resident Erron Boone, 32, has been coming to games since he was a child. His favorite memory is catching a home run his junior year of high school.
This year, he is rooting for Miami, but his contingency of 60 or so people are all Florida Gator fans this year, he said.
“A lot of people tie in once they get into Super Regionals,” Boone said. “Once it starts boiling down and they see who could be coming and who couldn’t be coming, they’ll start choosing teams then. I don’t think a lot of people really follow it throughout the whole year.”
Boone met Scanlan’s group on Saturday. Boone probably pays more attention to the play-by-play than Scanlan, who said he always gets tickets but sometimes does not make it into the stadium.
“My favorite memory is that I don’t remember a whole bunch of times that I have been here,” Scanlan laughed.