The success of the Omaha Zoo Foundation’s decision to open Rosenblatt Stadium one last time could be measured in smiles and tears.
More than 9,500 people made the pilgrimage in the past five days to the former site of the College World Series. They purchased plenty of souvenirs and memorabilia, and carted home dirt in every kind of receptacle possible.
“The infield looks like a mine field,” said Calvin Sisson, executive director of the foundation.
Mostly, the fans came out to reminisce about the good times they had at Omaha’s iconic stadium on the hill, scheduled to be demolished next month.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Sisson said. “We had so many people, from current players to former players to parents and children, share their memories with us.”
One of the last people Sisson said he escorted into the stadium was an elderly mother from California and her middle-aged son.
“We hadn’t even gotten up the left-field entrance and he was crying,” Sisson said. “That makes you realize what this place means.”
Sisson said a man who identified himself as former Southern California shortstop Seth Davidson brought his wife and two small children. Davidson played on the Trojans’ 1998 team that won the national championship at Rosenblatt.
Davidson’s wife told Sisson that her husband wants to take his sons to ballparks that he had played in both collegiately and professionally.
“They walked out to shortstop and he and his boys, with their gloves, got some pictures,” Sisson said. “She’s off to the side bawling because of how much that moment meant to her.
“We saw that over and over again over the past five days.”
The zoo, which now owns the stadium, did not allow people to visit Rosenblatt during last year’s CWS, the first played at its new home downtown. Many fans managed to sneak into Rosenblatt, some by climbing fences at night.
That led to the foundation’s decision to open the stadium this year. Fans were allowed to visit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., beginning last Thursday through Monday. Saturday’s session was cut to an hour by storms in the area.
Monday’s session was extended an hour because the fans just kept coming. Sisson said the response the past five days had him considering opening the stadium for another day or two.
“We would have liked to, but we just can’t muster the manpower to make it happen,” he said, referring to the countless volunteers who worked the event. “We’re just out of gas.”
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