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BEST OF THE BLOG

BEST OF THE BLOG

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The Glove takes in first CWS contest

What's a baseball game without The Glove?

Decked out in an Oregon State hat and an "Every Dam Day" T-shirt, NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton showed his support for his alma matter at TD Ameritrade Park on Friday afternoon.

Before he was an NBA champion, a nine-time All-Star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Payton was a Beaver.

"This is my team," Payton said during the seventh-inning stretch. "I'm alumni, so I just come in to see the games, support our team. I do it all the time. I do it with every sport.

"I try to go to everything." Payton has been a frequent presence at OSU basketball, baseball, football and volleyball games, but Friday was his first CWS experience.

"They're having such a great year, and I'd never been here, so I said, 'Let me go experience it,'" Payton said. "This is great. Great atmosphere. It's just like the big leagues. They're getting them ready out here."

Payton graduated from OSU in 1990 after a four-year career that included three NCAA tournament appearances, Pac-10 defensive player of the year recognition in 1987 and national player of the year honors in 1990.

When he moved on to the pros, he was the Beavers' record-holder in five categories and remains the leader in points, field goals, assists and steals.

His son, Gary Payton II, followed in his footsteps, playing for OSU from 2014 to 2016.

Foul balls keep finding family

Blake Dieckmann never thought he'd go viral at a CWS game.

But during Thursday's TCU vs. Louisville contest, the 19-year-old had his moment, catching not one, but two foul balls.

Improbable? Yes. But not impossible.

"I still can't really believe it happened," Dieckmann said. "It's crazy that I caught two in one game."

Making the story even crazier? At Friday's LSU vs. Oregon State game, Dieckmann's uncle Doug Moore caught a foul ball during the third inning.

Dieckmann, who played baseball and basketball at Fremont Bergan, has been coming to CWS games for as long as he can remember. In all those games, he has never caught one, let alone two, foul balls.

The first came during the second inning. A TCU player snagged a hit, and the ball went soaring.

"I just kind of watched it from my seat like a normal play," Dieckmann said. "At the last second, I put my left hand up and (the ball) kind of fell into it. Just my bare hands."

He held up the ball, showing it to the cheering crowd.

"You're probably going to be on ESPN," his friends told him.

Sure enough, within minutes he had friends and family texting and posting about his first catch.

Then, during the fourth inning, luck struck again.

"I didn't really have time to think about it," Dieckmann said. "I could tell it was coming in pretty hot."

The ball landed in his section and rolled to his feet. But this time, Dieckmann shared the moment, giving the ball to a nearby TCU fan.

"He was rooting the whole game," Dieckmann said. "During batting practice he was going crazy for all the TCU players."

During the third inning of Friday's game, a high foul went flying toward Moore's second-level seat on the first-base side.

The ball bounced around Moore and his friends, hitting off hands, the wall and someone's back before it rolled into Moore's hands.

Moore texted family, all in disbelief. Like Dieckmann, Moore had never caught a foul ball. Now, the family can claim three within 24 hours.

Moore gave the ball to his 9-year-old son James.

Dieckmann plans on attending the championship series starting Monday. And if he catches another ball?

"I would not know what to do," he said. "That'd be crazy."

Happy to sing

You can't hear the buzz of a crowd from inside the lower level halls of TD Ameritrade Park.

The holding room where 22-year-old Collin Wyler sits is quiet, save for the sound of "Law and Order" coming from the mounted TV.

He chats with his mom, Susan Wyler. A sound technician comes in to outfit him with earpieces. A half hour later, he's escorted onto the field, ready to sing the National Anthem at the College World Series for the fourth year in a row.

"It's cool to come back and sing in my hometown in front of a big crowd like that," Wyler said.

Performing the National Anthem has become routine for Wyler. He's sung at Storm Chaser games the past nine years and sings at UNO sporting events, where he's a student. He's spent the past year singing at major league games. He is scheduled to sing at seven this summer.

All performances are voluntary, Wyler said. He doesn't get paid, has to figure out his own transportation. But free game tickets are a perk.

"I'm a huge baseball fan," he said. "Why not?"

National pride

The video opens with a sweeping view of the city skyline and then TD Ameritrade Park.

Uplifting music plays in the background as players and coaches speak about the city and the College World Series.

The 56-second video, produced by the NCAA, is a tribute and a thank you to the city for hosting the series, said J.D. Hamilton, the NCAA's media coordinator for the series.

The video was shot June 16, the day before the start of the Series. It features players and coaches from the CWS and has drawn attention on social media.

Hamilton said it has been one of the most-watched videos the NCAA has created for a national championship in recent years.

He said the video resonates with fans because the players and coaches speak simply, but powerfully, about the CWS and the city.

In the video a coach says: "For generations it has welcomed college baseball's greatest players."

A player adds: "As a kid you grow up dreaming of playing in the College World Series."

Another player says: "It's where you want to play your last game every season."

The video shows fans cheering and players rushing onto the field.

The video ends with players saying: "This year Omaha is ours. Welcome to Omaha."

— Natalia Alamdari, Blake Baxter and Michael O'Connor

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