• Photo Showcase: CWS Fan Fest
• Photo Showcase: Thursday CWS practice
• Video Below: See videos of Stony Brook, Rosenblatt, UCLA and fan predictions
• Live: Friday's CWS coverage
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What's a rock star to do on his first day in a new town? Go exploring.
On Wednesday night, four Stony Brook players headed out, in search of adventure and steak. They left their Embassy Suites hotel and walked up 10th Street, in bright red Stony Brook gear, in search of Cascio's. People in cars honked or waved to them. Some stopped and greeted them, asked for autographs.
Once at Cascio's, the Seawolves wolfed down ribeyes and took in old-school Omaha. Then they asked the locals for directions.
Where's Rosenblatt Stadium?
Not far, they were told. But don't walk. One of the folks at Cascio's gave the lads a ride to Rosenblatt, where they looked around and said goodbye to a place they had only been to in their dreams.
“It gave me chills,” outfielder Mike Hubbard said. “Growing up, this is where you wanted to go.”
“It was sick,” pitcher Josh Mason said. “Just amazing. It's hard to believe it's going away. It looks good enough to still practice or play in there.”
Well, that's another story. Thankfully, not this year's story.
This is being called the Stony Brook College World Series. It's also the beginning of the TD Ameritrade Park era at the CWS.
Last year's scrapbook contains a blur of emotions and weird stuff. The flood that some feared would invade the CWS. The end-of-days storm that chased fans into a convention-center bunker.
Mostly, there were a lot of Omahans acting like out-of-towners, looking for a place to park, to eat, to hang out. Nobody knew where to go, what to do. Except South Carolina.
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This year, we can return our attention down on the field. And look who showed up.
There could not be more timely guests to our baseball party than Stony Brook and Kent State. It's almost like the college baseball gods, and they know who they are, said this is what Omaha needs.
No offense to LSU. The CWS is always better with the cajun spice. The only folks not rooting for Stony last weekend were people from the LSU hangouts in Omaha; a barkeep at one of them told me they figured to lose up to $100,000 without the Tiger fans.
LSU would have transferred some of that Rosenblatt mojo downtown. But guess what? Stony Brook and Kent State might do it and then some.
These are classic underdogs, by stature of school and geography. Small-school teams from Long Island, N.Y., and northern Ohio, who somehow got to Omaha without playing games in the fall.
They shouldn't have to buy a steak or a Shirley Temple all week. Omaha loves a good underdog. But give it two from the Great White North, who overcame odds and frosted bats, and you have the makings of a CWS that may produce sparks.
The gravity of what lies ahead was felt on Thursday, and the stadium was mostly empty.
“It's very surreal right now,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said.
“That autograph session was just blowing our minds,” Stony Brook coach Matt Senk said.
There's an innocence and character with these two, at an event that was accused a year ago of being sterile and lacking color.
No more. Wolfie, the Seawolves' mascot, was seen walking down 11th Street Wednesday, high-fiving fans. And his hair was perfect.
Just wait. If these two can win a game this weekend, the momentum wave might carry them deep and blow everyone's mind.
Stony Brook's slogan is “Shock The World.” But don't be shocked if the Seawolves or Flashes advance. They're good, really good, and they have a chip on the shoulder.
More than that, they pitch and defend, which is the name of the game in an era with bat juice drained and a giant CWS park. That, too, is why this year might represent the beginning of a new era: small-school teams from the north who can pitch and defend, competing for national titles.
Don't forget the Old School. Florida State coach Mike Martin, the Bobby Bowden of college baseball, is back for CWS No. 15, still looking to catch the white whale. Now there's an underdog.
Arizona coach Andy Lopez won this thing 20 years ago at Pepperdine, a Stony Brook of L.A. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn is under the radar and always dangerous in that role.
Meanwhile, nobody is talking about UCLA, Florida or South Carolina, and they can pretty much do everything.
This should be big fun. The best part is, you'll know where to go. The character of the new location is slowly taking shape. Greg Pivovar and his beloved Stadium View shop are no longer part of the CWS this year. But Zesto is back, attached to an interesting hangout called Blatt, which looks like the kind of place that makes me wish I weren't working.
Enjoy the CWS. Thanks to the underdogs, it's already memorable.
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• Video: Stony Brook is a fan favorite in Omaha:
• Video: Fans say goodbye to Rosenblatt:
• Video: CWS fans tell us who they think will win:
• Video: UCLA takes the field: