Dash of purple enlivens TD Ameritrade Park - Omaha.com
Published Monday, June 17, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 8:43 pm
College World Series
Dash of purple enlivens TD Ameritrade Park

Charm, grace and a joy for living are some of the attributes that make LSU fans so popular with Omahans during the College World Series.

Karen Barrett, an owner of Barrett's Barleycorn Pub and Grill, described the Tiger fans who have made her bar their unofficial headquarters during CWS visits as “gracious, fun and very, very kind people.” When Louisiana State doesn't make it to the CWS, the tourney just isn't as much fun for Barrett — or as profitable.

“Last night, we were packed full of LSU fans and, just like always, you can tell how much they love being here in Omaha,” Barrett said Sunday. “Whenever we play the LSU fight song, every single one of their fans stands and sings — even this little 80-year-old man who was having a birthday was singing along. They have so much fun, and they're so likeable.”

LSU has made 16 trips to Omaha, and the Tigers' most recent visit, in 2009, ended with their sixth national championship. Barrett said she couldn't wait to see some of her old friends roll through the door last week. When they did arrive, many of them had spicy cajun dishes for her to sample.

“A guy brought in something called boudin, which is a dish with sausage and dirty rice,” Barrett said. “He said, 'Here you go, Miss Karen,' and it was wonderful. They are always doing things like that to spice up the party.”

Gabe Butler, a manager at the Upstream Brewery in the Old Market, said fans from all eight CWS teams have been at the restaurant, but he “definitely knows” when LSU people are in town.

“A few of them come every year, but when their team makes it here, too, that's really special,” Butler said. “They've been out in force this year, and they are really fun to have in our place.”

Eric Hummel, LSU's assistant ticket manager, said there were 1,300 requests for the school's 700 allotted tickets, but Tiger fans have ways of finding extra seats. At the LSU's opener Sunday night against UCLA, the crowd of 26,344 appeared to be at least half LSU supporters, press box observers said.

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“Our fans have been fairly smart over the years as far as finding ways to get tickets through other avenues,” Hummel said.

Rick Perry of the Tiger Athletic Foundation, a fundraising organization for LSU sports, said the school's fans love the reception they get at their favorite CWS haunts. Tiger fans “almost have a little checklist” as they go around the Old Market finding their special places, he said.

“We all go through the Old Market and check out the Upstream and the little ice cream shop around the corner, and then down to Mr. Toad's or some of the great restaurants,” Perry said. “Every time we come back, we can't wait to see our old friends.”

Wayne and Cynthia Decoteau have made seven trips to the CWS, with the first in 1993, when their son was a team manager. Cynthia said LSU fans call Omaha “their second home.”

“We love the atmosphere, and the people here have been so kind to us,” Wayne said. “We came up with no tickets and will just trust we can find some.”

Wayne LaHaye of Mamou, La., and son Marcel LaHaye of Ville Platte, La., came to Omaha with Marcel's two sons and a friend.

“A lot of people from Omaha have been coming up — starting at the airport — and saying we're sure happy to see you all here,” Wayne LaHaye said. “Some of our friends come up every year, and I think I can see why.”

Michael Giambelluca

The timing of LSU's return to the CWS could not have been better for Michael Giambelluca and his wife, Donnamaria.

Giambelluca, who is preparing to take the reigns as Creighton Prep's new president, arrived in Omaha from New Orleans about a week ago, his wife on June 3.

Both are lifelong New Orleans residents. And both are LSU fans, although Giambelluca said his wife, an LSU graduate, is the bigger fan.

“It's just really great,” Giambelluca said. “Here we are new to Omaha and we have this opportunity to see LSU.”

Giambelluca, who just wrapped up the school year as principal of Jesuit High School in New Orleans, does have a particular interest in this LSU team. Senior Mason Katz is a former Jesuit High student.

On Friday, Giambelluca joined the throng of LSU faithful attending the Fan Fest at TD Ameritrade Park in hopes of meeting up with his former student, now a fourth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals.

At the end of LSU's autograph session, Giambelluca waived Katz over for a hug and a slap on the back.

“You're the man,” Giambelluca said. “I'm so proud of you.”

Other fans, like Steve Barry of Metarie, La., are proud of the many friends LSU fans have made in Omaha. LSU wasn't in the field in 2010, but Barry and many other Tiger fans made a pilgrimage to say goodbye to Rosenblatt Stadium in the last CWS played there.

“We had our fingers crossed we could come back pretty soon when LSU was here,” Steve Barry said. “The thing about LSU fans is that on road trips our fans can exceed the home fans. We travel pretty well.”

One LSU fan, Frank “the bead man” Comeaux, has been coming to the CWS almost every year since 2000, whether the Tigers make it to the tournament or not.

Comeaux, a New Orleans native who now lives in Tylertown, Miss., has become a staple at the tournament over the years. In the first couple days of the tournament, he has handed out several bags of Mardi Gras-style beads to fans walking along the concourse.

And Comeaux, 73, has no plans of slowing down any time soon. “At this point I already have enough beads to last me for the entire series next year.”

World-Herald staff writer Robby Korth contributed to this report.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1272, kevin.cole@owh.com

Contact the writer: Kevin Cole

kevin.cole@owh.com    |   402-444-1272    |  

Kevin Cole covers workings of police, courts and government and writes features about interesting subjects in Omaha and the surrounding counties.

CWS SCHEDULE »
Friday, June 14
Opening Celebration

Saturday, June 15
Game 1: Mississippi State 5, Oregon State 4
Game 2: Indiana 2, Louisville 0

Sunday, June 16
Game 3: N.C. State 8, North Carolina 1
Game 4: UCLA 2, Louisiana State 1

Monday, June 17
Game 5: Oregon State 11, Louisville 4
Game 6: Mississippi State 5, Indiana 4

Tuesday, June 18
Game 7: North Carolina 4, LSU 2
Game 8: UCLA 2, N.C. State 1

Wednesday, June 19
Game 9: Oregon State 1, Indiana 0

Thursday, June 20
Game 10: North Carolina 7, N.C. State 0

Friday, June 21
Game 11: Mississippi State 4, Oregon State 1
Game 12: UCLA 4, North Carolina 1

Championship Series

Monday, June 24
Finals Game 1: UCLA 3, Mississippi State 1

Tuesday, June 25
Finals Game 2: UCLA 8, Mississippi State 0
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