Most Mississippi State fans know exactly how the Bulldogs captured their first-ever team national championship by winning the 2021 Men’s College World Series.
But take it from star right fielder Tanner Allen: There’s a lot MSU fans were never privy to.
“Not a lot of people know what went on behind the scenes,” Allen said Monday. “There will be a few people who get shocked when they see what actually went on.”
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Bulldogs fans will get the chance when “Banner Year: The Story of Mississippi State’s First National Title” premieres on the SEC Network. The hourlong documentary will also be streamed live on the ESPN app.
While the special includes interviews with athletic director John Cohen, former MSU coach Ron Polk, pitcher Will Bednar and alumni Dak Prescott and Victoria Vivians, other Bulldogs got their chance to speak in a Twitter Space on Monday previewing the documentary.
Allen, the 2021 Southeastern Conference player of the year, joined center fielder Rowdey Jordan, pitcher Houston Harding and former MSU standouts Brent Rooker and Elijah MacNamee in Monday’s discussion. ESPN’s Ryan McGee and Ben McDonald led the event.
“I never saw excitement in Omaha like I saw it there,” McDonald said.
The Bulldogs players — those who took the field at TD Ameritrade Park and those who watched from afar — could tell.
In Triple-A with the St. Paul Saints, Rooker went to manager Toby Gardenhire the night before his alma mater took the field and asked to play designated hitter. That way, he could spend most of the game in the clubhouse, watching the Bulldogs on TV.
MacNamee, with the independent Evansville Otters, arrived at the field on June 30, the day of Game 3 of the CWS championship series, to find the skies had opened. The Otters were rained out for the first time all season.
MacNamee didn’t mind.
“I was just like, ‘Maybe the baseball gods are on our side today,’” he said.
He invited his teammates to a watch party for the decisive contest, expecting one or two to show up. More than a dozen did, and they rooted on the Bulldogs together.
Of course, the impromptu gathering had nothing on what was going on in Omaha itself. Jordan measured the mounting crowds via the volume of maroon and white in the lobby of the team hotel, the Hilton near the ballpark.
By the end of the Bulldogs’ first week at the CWS, they had to resort to sneaking out the back of the building to get to the team bus.
“If we would have gone through the lobby, it would have taken 30 minutes to get to the bus,” Jordan said. “That’s how many people were there. It was unreal.”
When Mississippi State walked off Texas with a 4-3 win June 26 to reach the College World Series final, Jordan started scrolling Twitter. Every Bulldogs fan he saw was thrown into preparation mode for a sudden trip north.
“I was sitting there going, ‘Oh, boy,’” Jordan said. “‘There’s going to be a lot of maroon and white up there.’”
Harding saw a “sea” of Mississippi State’s school colors when he took the mound in Game 2 of the championship series, a 13-2 win over Vanderbilt to even the best-of-three set.
“It was like everybody and their brother came out there and enjoyed that game,” Harding said.
One day later, the Bulldogs shut out the Commodores 9-0 to claim their elusive title — something Rooker and MacNamee never did achieve but were ecstatic to see.
“You always want to be a part of the team that does it, but when your opportunity passes and your time goes by, you’re hoping the next team can do it,” Rooker said.
The 2021 Bulldogs were the ones to make school history, though, and they’ve got the rings to prove it. McGee asked Allen, Jordan and Harding where their championship memorabilia is currently located.
Jordan’s ring is back home with his parents in Auburn, Alabama, while the center fielder plays for the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones. Harding, currently with the High-A Tri-City Dust Devils in Washington state, also keeps his at home in Mississippi, worrying he might lose it otherwise.
Allen, meanwhile, entrusted his girlfriend Caroline Walker in Starkville with his championship ring while he plays for the High-A Beloit (Wisconsin) Sky Carp.
“I might need to call her and make sure she still knows where it is,” he said.
Whether or not Allen can dig up the championship band, he might be able to dredge up more secrets in Tuesday’s documentary.
“I’m very excited for it to come on tomorrow night,” Allen said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.