By 4 o’clock that Friday afternoon, the Mississippi State bulldogs had won their way into the championship game at the College World Series; by 5 o’clock the Bardwells were packing.
“This is history being made. This may never happen again in our lifetime!” Sam said.
My brother, Skip Shelton, called from Colorado, “I’ve got hotel reservations, and I’m calling for airline tickets.”
Skip had already been to Omaha and watched the Bulldogs win their first two games.
“I thought you said you couldn’t go back?”
“This is history being made. This may never happen again in our lifetime!” Skip said.
I wanted to go, but the cat, the goldfish, the ducks, my tomato plants loaded with tomatoes, my … Well, my neighbors, the Stoll girls, were running a plant and pet service for the neighborhood, and well …
“OK” I told Sam, but I’m taking my pillow. I can’t sleep on those big hotel pillows. And a fan. The hall noise, you know. And don’t let me forget my vitamins.”
Sam said, “I’ve never in my life packed a cooler full of lettuce,” as I loaded the cooler with the groceries I had just bought.
I rummaged dresser drawers and pulled out every Bulldog T-shirt we owned, and then — we were off to Omaha.
We passed or were passed by every county tag in the state. Fans were from all over; the Bulldog Nation was headed to Omaha.
A good 869 miles later we arrived and blended into a sea of maroon and white. Employees at the hotel and even some restaurants said they had never seen anything like it. The hotel staff began to wear maroon and white. The atmosphere was electric.
We visited tailgate parties; we attended convention halls full of Bulldogs. We saw old friends and made new ones. It’s the one time you don’t mind a bit if you’re dressed like everyone else. Maroon, white and khaki were fashion hot.
At the games the Bulldog fans clearly outnumbered anyone else. We did the chants, “maroon … white … ” We watched our beloved team, but it wasn’t quite enough.
When the last game was over, we kept our seats as confetti filled the air and drifted silently to the floor. The Jumbo-tron camera scanned our players on the sideline; Sam Frost brushed away a tear.
“Do you remember being sad in 1997 and 1998?” I asked Sam.
“I don’t remember being sad, but I’m sure I was. I remember the good times, the friends, the camaraderie, the food, the thrill of being at the College World Series.”
We sat and stared at the field, the players and the fans soaking it all in as the UCLA players lined up for the festivities.
In the quiet that surrounded us I heard a lady behind me. “I’m still glad I came — I am,” she said.
We were there watching the MSU baseball team play the 2013 College World Series championship game. Wow.
And all I’m gonna say is, “We’ll be back!”
Shannon Rule Bardwell of Columbus can be reached at email@example.com.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.