Rosenblatt shrine pulls in its share of CWS fans - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:07 pm
Rosenblatt shrine pulls in its share of CWS fans

Video: CWS fans from Nashville visit the Rosenblatt memorial.

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College World Series fans — young and old — are making time this week to visit the little baseball diamond on the former Rosenblatt Stadium site.

That was certainly evident Tuesday, when a midmorning shower failed to put a damper on things.

One minute, 4-year-old Briggs Luedke of Kearney was running along the rubber basepaths as fast as his little legs would carry him.

The next, 88-year-old Rowan Taylor of Jackson, Miss., was rolling toward home plate in his wheelchair.

Fans have flocked to see Johnny Rosenblatt's Infield at the Zoo, a new memorial for the stadium that played host to the CWS for 60 years. The Little League-size infield includes several nods to the former Rosenblatt days, including a home plate that sits in the same spot as in the old stadium.

“I think they did a real good job with this,'' said Rick Clary of San Antonio. “We hated to see Rosenblatt go, but it's nice they put up something so we don't forget it.''

Clary, his wife, Pam, and 16-year-old son, Heath, took their time while strolling around the infield. Plaques honor the stadium's baseball past, and Clary said it was just fun to reminisce.

“We came to our first series in 2003,” he said. “We didn't really know what to expect today when we pulled up here, but I think they did a great job with it.''

Rosenblatt's rich history is reflected in several nice touches.

Bricks from the entrance of Rosenblatt line the new concourse of the small field, and the structure is painted the same shade of blue as the old stadium. The Rosenblatt arch that sat on top of the stadium's scoreboard also is there.

The familiar red, yellow and blue seats are lined up outside the baselines, and the yellow foul poles stand as silent sentinels down the left- and right-field lines.

That attention to detail hasn't been lost on the fans. The sampling Tuesday included fans from Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Nevada, Oregon and Nebraska.

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“Starting in 1985, I went to the CWS 12 years in a row,'' said Nate Luedke of Kearney. “So many people have great memories of the series, so I'm glad they did something to honor Rosenblatt.''

While Luedke spoke, his three kids — 11-year-old Baylie, 8-year-old Breck and 4-year-old Briggs — were busy playing a game with an invisible baseball and bat. Their mom, Beckie, was trying to get it all on film.

Breck pitched the “ball” from the mound and Briggs gave his “bat” a mighty swing. As Briggs raced around the bases, a mild disagreement ensued over whether his big sister had indeed caught the invisible ball.

While that drama was playing out, four fans from Mississippi studied one of the plaques. Taylor was joined by his friend Don Meiners, Meiners' wife, Pat, and friend Suzanne Marrs.

“We loved Rosenblatt,'' Don Meiners said. “Even though the stadium is gone, I love how they've kept the look of it.''

The quartet that is cheering for Mississippi State in this year's CWS reminisced about their most recent trip to Omaha for the series. That was in 1998, when Bulldogs left fielder Rusty Thoms would prove to be one of the most popular players at the CWS.

“The fans in the stands loved him,'' Pat Meiners said. “They'd chant his name, and he'd throw them candy. And to think it all happened right here.''

The group wasn't ready to leave without Don Meiners pushing Taylor and his wheelchair around the bases. When Meiners picked up steam rounding second and headed toward third base, fans sitting in the nearby colored seats didn't want the duo to be satisfied with a triple and started yelling “Send him! Send him!''

As if there was any doubt Meiners might stop: He gave the wheelchair full steam past third and headed home. When the duo crossed the plate, there were big smiles on their faces.

The adjacent Henry Doorly Zoo purchased the Rosenblatt Stadium grounds in 2011 for $12 million. The stadium was torn down last year to make room for parking and the new mini Rosenblatt, which opened less than two weeks ago.

The infield project cost about $600,000 and was paid for entirely through donations.

While the CWS is in its third year at TD Ameritrade Park, it was evident Tuesday that there is still a lot of love for the old Rosenblatt Stadium — and for the baseball memorial that stands in its place.

“This is something for young and old,'' longtime fan Pat Meiners said. “It makes you feel like a kid again.''

Contact the writer:

402-444-1350, mike.patterson@owh.com

CORRECTION: Rowan Taylor was misidentified in an earlier version of this story.

CWS fans from Nashville visit the Rosenblatt memorial.

Contact the writer: Mike Patterson

mike.patterson@owh.com    |   402-444-1350    |  

Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer.

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