As I drove down 13th Street with a friend this morning before Game 1 of the 2010 College World Series, he pointed to specific people and told me their stories.
“That guy right there,” he said pointing at a guy wearing LSU gear, “he comes every year regardless of whether LSU is in the tournament or not.”
My friend, whose name is Don Barry, should know an LSU fan when he sees one. He’s one himself. But he’s more than just an LSU fan. He’s a CWS fan who is as diehard about the tournament as they come – diehard enough to be coming to the event for the last 30 years. He’s here again this year even though his team isn’t.
“It started off with my family,” Barry said. “My dad used to get tickets through his work. I was probably four or five – still in elementary school. We used to sit up in the upper level and now we’ve moved down here [closer to the field].”
He developed an affinity for LSU in the early 90s and he began to develop friendships with other LSU fans.
“I have a friend who comes to the College World Series every time LSU makes it,” Barry said. “She’s called the ‘K Lady.’ Every time an LSU pitcher strikes out a batter she takes a wooden K and she would hang it on the railing down there.”
Recently Don and his wife, Karen, got together with the “K Lady,” whose real first name is Anita, when they went to Baton Rouge for a bowling tournament. And when she comes into town, they get together for a meal.
Unfortunately for the K Lady, and for fans in general, times have changed and the NCAA no longer allows her to hang Ks on the railing at the CWS, so she stands up and holds her Ks high whenever an LSU pitcher strikes someone out.
“Then there’s this LSU guy who sits in the back of our section. Every series he brings a big duffle bag into the stadium with hundreds of sets of Mardi Gras beads. And in between innings, he’ll stand up and chuck them on the fans all over the stadium.”
Barry’s interaction with CWS fans isn’t limited to just LSU fans.
“There was a game where Cal State Fullerton was playing Miami in the ‘92 or ‘93 – could have been the mid 90s,” Barry said. “There was a chance of rain that night. It started raining about the fifth or sixth inning. Then it started down pouring. We were on the Cal State Fullerton side. During a rain delay, probably about seven or eight of us jumped up onto the dugout and started dancing in the rain.
“So ESPN decided they were going to cover that and they started showing us on TV that night. Security didn’t run us off because that was before the real heightened security problems. We were all just having a good time – a bunch of Cal State Fullerton fans with their faces painted, and me. It turns out, that for the next four or five years, whenever ESPN would run their College World Series promo, they would always show that scene.”
During the TCU-FSU game this afternoon, Barry shot a photo (shown) of another fan he knows named Scott Hazelrigg. Hazelrigg is a TCU alumni who is from Omaha. He was at Rosenblatt this afternoon flying his TCU banner loud and proud — and why not, given that his team is in the CWS for the first time in their history.
Like so many of us, Barry says he is going to miss Rosenblatt Stadium because of all the tradition and memories.
“My greatest memory is when Warren Morris hit the game-ending home run to win the Series, I think in ’96,” Barry said. “He hadn’t hit a home run all year long. He steps up in the ninth inning with his team down a run or two and he hits it right over the 335 sign in right field. The whole place just went nuts.”
He says the new stadium – TD Ameritrade Park – that the city is building downtown is a good and bad thing.
“It’s the end of an era obviously,” Barry said. “You’re leaving a stadium that’s hosted the College World Series for 60 years to start a whole bunch of new memories at the new stadium. Hopefully the city embraces that and hopefully they continue to support the Series as much as they have and hopefully the corporate influence doesn’t change it as much as some people think they are.”