Steve Pivovar

World-Herald staff writer Steven Pivovar was set to cover his 500th consecutive College World Series game this week.

There’s no cancer in baseball.

With that in mind, Piv, please tell the Big C to hit the showers. This is College World Series week. And we need you.

Unfortunately, there’s a void on World-Herald row in the press box. Steve Pivovar — husband, father, grandfather, mayor and historian of the CWS and our friend — is home, resting and fighting a disease that doesn’t fight fair.

This is UC Santa Barbara’s moment. Same for Coastal Carolina and the other six great clubs in town and all their fans. Piv would want it that way, the spotlight where it belongs.

But a lot of folks have been asking about you, Piv. Your name has come up more than the topic of home runs at last year’s CWS. They want to know how you’re doing.

When you work at The World-Herald for 45 years, and cover nearly 500 straight CWS games, the history of the CWS wants to know how you’re doing.

Here’s what I tell them: Piv was diagnosed with cancer in early 2016. It originated in his kidney and spread to other parts of his body.

It’s been a tough time. Piv is the ultimate warrior. He’s driven all night in blizzards to cover basketball games, filed stories from pay phones, all that jazz. But sports writing is fun. Cancer isn’t fun.

What I can tell you is that Piv has his good days and his not-so-good days. Days when the steroids help and days when the chemo knocks him flat on his back.

And it looks like Piv will be watching this CWS from home.

That’s the toughest deal, because nobody loves the CWS more than Piv. And he was going to cover his 500th straight CWS game this week.

That’s a lot of cups of coffee, scoring books, gamers and sidebars, press conferences, coaches, players, moments and just plain passion for baseball.

That passion is like a driving force, a soul of the CWS. It’s the passion of a kid from South Omaha who fell in love with a game and a park, Rosenblatt Stadium, and an event that was like Omaha’s Disneyland.

And even as the kid grew older, and his hair grayed, he still carried that youthful passion for the CWS. Omaha’s game.

It’s why you cover nearly 500 straight games — good games, bad games, long games, rain delay games, no-hitters, Warren Morris fairy tale swings, all that stuff. Not many are at every single CWS game every year, but Piv is, and he’s taking down every pitch, hit and out. Consuming it.

He’ll do that at home this week. We’ll miss him, but we know the drill. Piv showed us how to cover this event, how to hug it, treat it with respect, the kids, the fans, the game.

I remember when the CWS left Rosenblatt, and nobody was more upset about it than Piv. But just this past year, I heard him tell a group at the Omaha Press Club that he has warmed up to TD Ameritrade Park, because it’s giving the CWS a good home and future.

“To me, he’s the voice of the series — the historian,” says John Manuel, the veteran scribe from Baseball America. “I saw him last year at the Triple-A All-Star game (at Werner Park). It wasn’t long before the series came up in conversation, and you could see a smile appear on his face.”

All your favorites and old faces are here, Piv. And they all say hello. They all say get back here soon.

This is a CWS you would love, too.

Start with Miami and Jim Morris. You can’t see the Hurricane uniforms and not get nostalgic for Rosenblatt. Morris is one of those old dugout dwellers whom Piv covered way back when. With Augie Garrido retired now, there are fewer graybeards like Morris still around, chasing the ring. And you can see it in his face, Piv, the older you get, the more you love the game, appreciate the at-bats.

You love underdog stories, too, the little guy, and we got ’em. Coastal Carolina and UC Santa Barbara are first-timers and there’s still nothing like watching the kids’ faces the first time they walk into the stadium — or do the autograph line. Awesome doesn’t cover it.

Of course, Piv, you know Coastal’s football coach, Joe Moglia. The Chanticleers will probably never believe that Moglia coached football in this stadium, but you believe it, because you covered those Omaha Nighthawks.

The cool thing about the Chanticleers and Gauchos making it is it keeps the fire burning for the little guy.

Raising scholarships from 11.5 to 14 or 15 is a hot topic, one that came up in the Friday NCAA press conference. If it happens, a lot of kids will benefit, but some of the smaller schools won’t be able to do it. And the CWS might lose some of the little guys.

Fortunately, they’re still around — and what UCSB and CCU did at Louisville and LSU showed there’s still balance in the game.

We thought this might be the SEC tournament North, Piv, but only one southern fried team made it. It’s good to see Florida here — the Gators have played like the No. 1 team in the country all season. You want that kind of team to be in the national championship event. Now, we’ll see if UF can finally get that CWS title.

You’d definitely get a kick out of the old Big Eight team here, Oklahoma State. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the orange and black, but you’d recognize a familiar face: Head coach Josh Holliday played for that last OSU team that made the CWS in 1999.

That was the year Coach Morris won his first CWS title at Miami and we’ll change the subject, because we all don’t need to feel any older.

You know what we do need? A game of catch.

Piv’s wife (Sue), daughter (Shannon) and son (Bret) have asked local media to spread the word on an idea to help Piv. It’s called “Play Catch For Piv.”

They sent out orange baseballs (orange, the color of kidney cancer) to various media and community outlets with the idea of getting a game of catch going. And then taking a photo or video of it and posting it to the “Play Catch For Piv” Facebook page.

Among those who have so far include Virginia coach Brian O’Connor and Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman, who played catch with assistant coach Kevin McKenna — both former Creighton coaches. Piv has covered all three men.

You don’t need an orange ball to play catch. Bring a ball and glove to the CWS. Let’s turn the CWS streets and parking lots into games of catch this week. That’s the spirit of baseball, of the CWS. And we’ll count it as Piv’s 500th game if he can’t get here.

You know what, Piv? If the steroids get you going, take some and get out here. The NCAA has promised to allow steroids at the CWS, just this once.

And up in the press box, they’re allowing cheering, just this once.

Get back here soon.

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Sports columnist

Tom is The World-Herald's lead sports columnist. Since he started in Omaha in 1991, he's covered just about anything you can imagine. Follow him on Twitter @TomShatelOWH. Phone: 402-444-1025.

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