A few months after Oregon State made a remarkable run to its first College World Series championship in 2006, its coach received a package.
Sent from Omaha. Turns out, a woman who lived near Rosenblatt Stadium had spotted a CWS game program from that year's series outside her house. The autumn winds must have carried it over, she thought.
So she sent it to Pat Casey and complimented his team and wrote that karma was on the Beavers' side.
Just a simple gesture. But to Casey, those are the simple gestures that seem to embody this spectacle — why Omaha is so perfectly suited to host the CWS, and why the annual event fits so naturally within the culture of the community.
"It's a wonderful city," Casey said. "Nobody does it like Omaha."
And that's not an accident. Omahans, as stewards of college baseball's paradise, have been mobilizing on a massive scale for decades — since 1950, actually — to ensure the CWS maintains its colloquial charm yet still exudes a certain aura suitable of a championship event.
Yes, there is a financial motivation at play. The economic impact extends beyond the businesses in TD Ameritrade Park's backyard.
Building a citywide reputation for hospitality isn't an unwelcome byproduct, either. Omahans tend to take pride in the positive impression they leave on visitors.
But for many, embracing the CWS each year is a labor of love. Or perhaps, even more intrinsically, it just is Omaha.
New York City parties on Times Square on New Year's Eve. New Orleans has Mardi Gras. Pasadena houses the Rose Bowl. Augusta gets the Masters.
Omaha's crown jewel: the College World Series.
And it's true that the CWS doesn't create Super Bowl-like ripples nationally. It barely registers among most casual sports fans. But it's a two-week working holiday for everyone here, and that's what matters to those involved.
The city closes down a street. Omaha Metro opens a looped shuttle bus for 25 cents a ride. Hundreds of volunteers adjust their schedules to keep things running behind the scenes. Locals buy tickets. Creighton's athletic department dispatches a convoy of employees to help with logistics.
"You don't have to sell it to our staff," CU Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said. "The College World Series is a special event. It is unique. People are so friendly, willing to help, and nobody's a stranger.
"The way the community gets involved — whether it's the police, the not-for-profits, the fans. It's an opportunity for the rest of the world to see what we all know Omaha is about."
Rasmussen has some perspective on the matter, too. He served on the Division I men's basketball committee for five years — and toured the country accessing cities' bids as NCAA tournament hosts.
Generally speaking, Rasmussen said he found that event planners were often searching for ways to entice potential volunteers. Free T-shirts? Gift bags? Tickets? They were all curious about Omaha's secret recipe.
Spoiler alert: It's the people. There are countless folks like Jim Costello, 69, who has served as a team host since 1983. His planning starts in the early spring of each year so that he can, starting this week, deploy members of the Kiwanis Club of Omaha to help arrange travel, plan practices or handle requests for one team. They host a cookout. They help coordinate off-day events.
Need a bank? Or a babysitter? Or a church for a Sunday service? Or a meal? Or a ride?
Costello's bunch is there for all of that.
CWS of Omaha Inc., the series' local organizing committee, sets up seven other groups like Costello's called "service clubs." One for each of the eight teams.
"The majority of it is to let them know we're here and make them feel at home," Costello said. "If they need something, we'll do it."
Because that's Omaha. That's how it's always been done.
At least that's how it makes sense to 66-year-old Jim Stewart, who captains a service club as part of the Rotary Club of Omaha. He has been hosting teams since 1996.
"We do it because we really like to do it," Stewart said. "It's important. We know for the teams, this is the final city. They're here for hopefully two weeks. So the city just reaches out to them. It's really unbelievable how we embrace this event. I don't know how to explain it."
Casey, the now-retired Oregon State coach, wasn't sure, either.
He stumbled a bit on his words when he tried to express his admiration for Omaha and the CWS during an interview with The World-Herald a few months ago.
Casey made six trips here. He coached 31 games and won three titles, most recently in 2018. He joked that he has probably stayed at every downtown hotel. He has met countless volunteers, city officials and ballpark employees.
The memories are endless. But, ultimately, what sticks out are the little things. Like the cheerful hellos from the locals when walking around downtown. Or a police officer telling Casey in 2006 that the Beavers were now his favorite (and the local favorites) after they eliminated Miami, a past Nebraska football rival. Or like the thoughtful note Casey got in December, months after the '06 title, from a South Omaha lady who just wanted to wish them good luck for the next year.
"If I had one thing to motivate anybody coaching baseball, it would be that — to get a chance to experience Omaha," Casey said. "That's the only game in town in the middle of June, and everybody's watching it. Once you experience it, you'll know what I'm talking about, because I can't explain it."