For this last reunion special at Rosenblatt, you'd think central casting could send us someone from Hollywood who knew the role.
USC not only won 11 national championships here, the Trojans gave the sport definition.
Cal State Fullerton won four titles here and showed the way for the non-football powers who dared to dream.
Heck, even UC Irvine stole our hearts and sold us a bunch of “Anteater'' T-shirts a few years ago.
And for the last dance, we get U-C-L-A?
Since they couldn't give us everyone, the aluminum bat gods sent us a compilation of all those years of glory.
Start with Bruins head coach John Savage, who was the pitching coach for USC from 1997 to 2000, including the last USC team to win a national title here in 1998.
Stay with Savage, who re-started the Irvine program in 2002 and set up the 'Eaters for a CWS run when he left for UCLA in 2005.
Then there's assistant coach Rick Vanderhook, the hitting guru who spent 21 seasons churning out great college sluggers for Augie Garrido and George Horton at Fullerton. Vanderhook has three national title rings and is looking for his fourth.
“Unbelievable,'' Vanderhook said after the Bruins whipped TCU 10-3. “Every time you go there (championship round), it's better than the first. So right now this is at the top of the list.''
Believe it. The Bruins look like the best team here. They are a combination of the regal pitching of USC, the dusty-uniform grit of Fullerton and the wide-eyed hunger of Irvine.
Hunger? Consider that UCLA has been to the CWS only twice before, in 1969 and 1997, and went 0-2 both trips. The Bruins had never won a CWS game until last week.
Consider the weight on their backs. UCLA leads the world in NCAA championships with — count 'em — 104.
Twelve men's sports, including water polo (eight), have won national championships for UCLA. Sixteen women's sports, including badminton, have national titles for the blue and gold.
“We see it every day, in the Hall of Fame room,'' Savage said. “They have a list of all the sports with the national titles underneath. For baseball, there's nothing.''
That's UCLA's mission here. And the Bruins have a little help. You think TCU had some karma? That was nothing.
When Savage was at USC, he got to know the late, great Rod Dedeaux. Earlier this week, Savage got some Dedeaux karma by going to Big Fred's, where Dedeaux and the Trojans ate after each national championship.
“I think he'd have a little smile right now, but he wouldn't let anybody know,'' Savage said of Dedeaux. “He's a Trojan.''
Savage also had a friendship with the late John Wooden the past five years. Saturday, the day UCLA made the CWS championship series, was the memorial service for Wooden back in Los Angeles.
“The timing of this is pretty special,'' Savage said. “He loved baseball. That was his favorite sport. I was very fortunate to meet with (Joe) Torre and Mike Scioscia and coach Wooden. Everybody around the table had their ears listening to every word he was saying. He's 99 years old and sharp as a tack. Very, very special man.
“The biggest thing was he wasn't caught up in results. You can't get caught up in the win, win, win mentality, because it's not the right approach. It's tough not to, because everybody wants to win. There's so much that goes into that process. I learned that, and how to handle people. It's unbelievable, when I think I was in my shoes to be able to do that.''
Garrido (now at Texas) and Horton (now at Oregon) might even be pulling for Vanderhook and the Bruins this week. Vanderhook left Fullerton in 2007 when Horton — who coached Vanderhook at Cerritos College — left for Oregon. One of the great instructors of hitting — and attitude — in college baseball had no job when Savage called two years ago.
“I'm sure Augie and George are happy for Rick,'' Savage said. “I'm happy for Rick. You talk about an unbelievable offensive mind. The guy is a tough guy. He doesn't let them get too up or too down.''
Vanderhook shrugs off any credit. But the Fullerton style — the Vanderhook style — has served this program well.
“It's about the kids,'' Vanderhook said. “The kids have bought into what we want them to do. They are playing what they call Bruin baseball and they're pretty good at it. It's kind of fun.
“We have grit. They are very good students, but they're very tough. When we're on the field, we're not Fullerton. We're UCLA. And we're tougher than nails.''
It's hard to tell who is who in that city. The lines cross over and back. Dave Serrano took over for Savage at Irvine, then Serrano replaced Horton at Fullerton as Vanderhook left for UCLA.
Two weeks ago, Savage and Vanderhook beat Serrano in the super regional — with a UCLA comeback that was right out of the Titans' playbook.
“I thought what Irvine did here was awesome,'' Savage said. “I mean, you're at UCLA, plugging away, there were some mixed emotions. But I was proud. Irvine got to Omaha and competed and did well.
“But now we're trying to make our name. It means everything.''
Funny how things work. The last time Savage was on the championship stage here, he was the winning pitching coach in a 21-14 USC victory that, as he put it, “changed the game, changed the bat.''
Now, 12 years later, Savage has got the arms. He'll throw the imposing Gerrit Cole on Monday night, then will have his other two aces, Rob Rasmussen and Trevor Bauer, likely available. Bauer threw 135 pitches in eight innings on Saturday, but he could likely go again Wednesday.
Why not? It's late June and UCLA has gone where no Bruin team has gone before.
Savage, watching UCLA from across town all of these years, really has no idea why it's taken this long. The Bruins have produced Eric Karros and Troy Glaus and Todd Zeile and Chase Utley and, way back when, a young man named Jackie Robinson.
“The Pac-10 is so tough,'' Savage said. “There are some fourth- or fifth-place teams that could do something in postseason, but they don't get there. I can't really answer that. Gary (Adams, former UCLA coach) did an unbelievable job. I have a ton of respect for the job he did. All I can say is that it's very difficult to get here.''
Maybe the competition across town was too strong. Don't look now, but some of the competition has moved to Westwood.
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