This is where you'll live. This is where you'll study. This is where you'll eat.
There is one campus attraction that Coach Matt Senk omitted — something a second baseman from Toronto naturally wanted to see.
The baseball stadium.
No need, Senk said. Stony Brook was going to build a new one in 2011.
Tissenbaum canceled visits to Ohio State and Cincinnati. He turned down the Toronto Bluejays, who selected him in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He became a Seawolf.
Later, he saw what Coach was hiding.
Stony Brook's diamond, across the street from a water treatment plant, featured a rather conspicuous hill from second base down to the right-field corner. The closer you got to the foul pole, the steeper the hill.
On the bright side, it was a heckuva home-field advantage.
Every time Stony Brook hit a pop-up down the line, the opponent's second baseman, first baseman and right fielder converged. Somebody in the Stony Brook dugout would yell, “They don't know about the hill!”
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“Sure enough,” Tissenbaum said, “one would fall down and the ball would drop in between all three of them.”
Stony Brook baseball climbed a mountain en route to this College World Series, fighting off elimination three times at Miami and twice at LSU. Now they're in Omaha, where strangers are craving Seawolves hats.
But this rags-to-riches story starts on the northern coast of Long Island.
Today, gleaming Joe Nathan Field sits across from the water treatment plant, the result of a $500,000 donation from the Texas Rangers closer, Stony Brook's most famous sporting alum. It features FieldTurf and, even better, a level outfield — sitting in the third-base dugout, you can actually see the right fielder's legs.
Not that many people notice the difference.
“We get maybe 100 people at a game if we're lucky,” catcher Pat Cantwell said. “Probably more like 30 parents and four or five girlfriends.”
Most of the Seawolves started their careers before the field was completed in May 2011. Back when the infield grass was so bumpy, you were liable to take a bad hop in the nose. Back when rolling out the tarp felt like pushing over the Empire State Building.
“That was absolutely brutal,” Cantwell said. “The tarp was old. It had to weigh like 400 pounds.”
In the Sun Belt, schools like Miami and LSU practice outside all year long. Last year, the Seawolves didn't field a ground ball outdoors until the season opener at Florida Atlantic. Unless you count the times they plowed the football field.
“We'd be turning double plays with snow falling,” Tissenbaum said.
Coach Senk took over the Seawolves in 1991, coming from a Catholic high school on Long Island. His first few years, Stony Brook was a Division-III school — he taught PE classes.
The program moved up to Division II in 1995, then to D-I in 2000. It made its first regional in 2004 and won its first regional game in 2010.
That summer, Tissenbaum realized Stony Brook's potential.
Several players were invited to the New England summer league. Three played in the prestigious Cape Cod League. In 2011, that number was up to seven.
Some, like speedy center fielder Travis Jankowski, were late-bloomers, barely recruited out of high school. Others, like Tissenbaum, chose Stony Brook for academic reasons. His parents refused to send him to a “baseball factory.”
“We had a chart at home that my mom and I put together that matched the university academic ranking with the university baseball ranking,” Tissenbaum said. “It was all about trying to get as close to 1 and 1 as we could.”
Stony Brook was nowhere near No. 1 in the baseball rankings. But Tissenbaum knew he could play as a freshman. He knew he could be close to New York City. He knew he could get a quality business degree, if not a well-manicured diamond.
In 2011, construction on Joe Nathan Field bogged down due to weather. The Seawolves didn't have a home field. When buses picked them up, it meant a real road trip. When 15-passenger vans arrived, it meant a 30-minute drive to a high school complex, where they hosted games.
“It was a team joke, ‘Oh, red vans. Must be a home game,' ” Tissenbaum said.
Their predicament didn't interfere with progress.
Prior to this spring, only 14 Stony Brook players had ever been selected in the MLB draft. This year, they had seven, including Jankowski, who went 44th overall.
Stony Brook won 46 regular-season games. Then four more at regionals. That's where the ride was supposed to end.
LSU, home to six national championships, averages more than 10,000 fans per game.
“I've been to playoff games at Yankee Stadium,” Tissenbaum said. “Alex Box Stadium is louder.”
The Seawolves lost the super-regional opener, a 12-inning game spread over 24 hours due to rain. They never lost faith, Cantwell said. They outhit LSU 35-15 in three games. They sold LSU fans on Cinderella.
After the final out, Tiger fans requested a Stony Brook victory lap along the outfield wall. Congratulations. Best of luck. We'll be wearing red.
Tissenbaum walked into his Baton Rouge hotel room Sunday night, dumped his baseball bag on the floor and grabbed the remote.
“The first thing I see on ‘SportsCenter' is me sliding into second base after hitting a double. I'm like, ‘I'm on TV right now!' ”
After 12 consecutive nights in hotel rooms, Stony Brook returned to Long Island. Tuesday they slept, watched movies and fought over the dorm washing machines — they launder their own uniforms.
Wednesday they received a hero's sendoff on campus, then boarded a charter plane bound for Omaha. At 1:30 p.m., they arrived at Embassy Suites, where Omaha kids were waiting for autographs.
“Everything's still kind of a blur,” Cantwell said from the hotel lobby.
Thursday, at 9 a.m., the Seawolves take their official CWS team photo. At 10, they practice inside a stadium with 24,000 seats, TD Ameritrade Park.
They won't have to worry about falling snow, heavy tarps and bad hops. They won't have to worry about pop-ups down the right-field line.
This is college baseball's hallowed ground. Flatter than the bill of a brand-new baseball cap.
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Former College World Series participant and six-time Major League All-Star Nomar Garciaparra and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team will headline Thursday's free opening ceremony at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, starting at 8:30 p.m.
The CWS teams will be introduced, with highlights of their seasons on the stadium's video board.
Teams will enter through an inflatable tunnel, marked by special effects. The Stepper-ettes Parade and Dance Team, the largest baton twirling organization in the Midwest, will form a pom line to welcome each team.
Academic awards will be presented by the Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, Creighton's president.
The event will include a salute to Flag Day, with the Lincoln Southeast marching band performing a medley of patriotic songs while the Stepper-ettes unfurl a huge American flag in the shape of the United States.
“Everyone entering the ceremony will be given a miniature American flag that they can use to help celebrate the occasion,” said Scott Fosler, NCAA assistant director of championships and alliances. “And the evening will close with a fireworks extravaganza that will be even bigger than last year's show.”
TEAM PRACTICES AT TD AMERITRADE PARK
UCLA: 9 to 10:30 a.m.
Stony Brook: 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Florida State: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Arizona: Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Arkansas: 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Kent State: 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Florida: 3 to 4:30 p.m.
South Carolina: 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Players will sign autographs on the first- and third-base concourses of TD Ameritrade Park beginning a half-hour after their practices are completed.
CWS FAN FEST
Free interactive games, contests and prizes sponsored by the NCAA Corporate Champions and Partners. Runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Lot C at the corner of 10th and Mike Fahey Streets.