OMAHA, Neb. – "Gideon the Hippie Minister" returned for another visit to the College World Series, and members of a nearby church are glad he did.
Texas Longhorns fan Peter Manry, an ordained minister, has attended almost all the games here since the late 1980s.
He makes the 900-mile drive from his Houston home with his dog, Bonnie, and each year he donates thousands of T-shirts he brings along to the First Christian Church in neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Most shirts are leftovers from Houston-area road races. Local missions can't use the shirts, Manry said, and many are sold as rags.
"We take them to somebody that needs a change of clothes," he said.
Manry's trip is always timed around the CWS. This year's a bonus. His Longhorns and rival Texas A&M Aggies are here.
"We always come up, whether the team comes or not, to bring a little Texas flavor," he said. "It's really special. But we have fun either way."
Manry, 58, quickly developed friends since making his initial 1989 visit. In his younger days, he earned his nickname because of his long hair and hippie lifestyle. Even today, he answers to "gideon." He prefers not to use a capital 'g.'
"My first year here I was introduced to about 15 different people that had been coming every year for 30 years," he said. "Now I'm one of those people. There are hundreds of people that come looking for me every year."
This year's trip to Omaha had one hurdle. Because of Missouri River flooding, Manry had to detour off Interstate 29 near the Missouri-Iowa border. He finished the journey on U.S. Highway 75.
One year, Manry returned home via Highway 75, which runs all the way to Houston, and enjoyed visiting with folks during stops in small towns.
"It's very interesting when people ask me where I'm going for my vacation and I say Omaha," he said. "People don't realize Omaha was a vacation spot, but it really is.
"It's lovely, people are nice. The series is awesome. It's good old-fashioned baseball."
PROUD CAL DAD: Sunday was an extra special Father's Day for Roy Johnson. He got to watch his son Erik pitch California's CWS opener against Virginia.
"This is immensely pleasing, unbelievable," Roy Johnson said. "It's a dream come true."
The Johnsons, from Los Altos, Calif., were worried for Erik's future when the Cal administration announced last fall it would be cutting the program in 2012. That was before Erik, a junior, was drafted in the second round by the Chicago White Sox.
The Cal baseball program was reinstated after a $9 million fundraising effort wrapped up in April.
After the tension of the offseason and early part of this season, the trip to the CWS is a nice way to end it.
"I still have to pinch myself in the morning to make sure I'm awake," Roy Johnson said while watching Cal's batting practice. "It doesn't seem real."
Johnson admitted that he and wife Margaret were battling nerves ahead of Sunday's game.
Erik, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior who was drafted in the second round by the Chicago White Sox, was lifted after three innings. He allowed just two hits and no runs but walked five and the Bears lost 4-1.
SIT AND WAIT: Texas A&M fans Michael Robbins and cousin Mark Schmidt were assured they would get a front-row general admission ticket for Sunday night's game by being first in the long general admission line.
They secured their spot two hours before Sunday's first game. They lounged in lawn chairs for more than 5½ hours until the GA line opened for the Texas A&M-South Carolina game. Schmidt said the wait was worth it.
"We e-mailed all our cousins and said, 'Watch for us. We're going to be in right field, right next to the bullpen,'" he said.
Robbins, from Beaver Dam, Ky., is making his third CWS visit. He stays with Schmidt, who lives in Omaha. Sunday was Robbins' first inside look at the new TD Ameritrade Park, but Schmidt went to one of Saturday's games.
"It's real nice," Schmidt said. "There's positives and there's negatives. You've got all the nostalgia (at Rosenblatt Stadium). Now we've got to start a new history."
NOTES: Cal's David Esquer joined Virginia's Brian O'Connor as former CWS players who coached in the series. Esquer played for Stanford in 1985 and '87, and O'Connor starred for Creighton University in 1991. There are 12 other coaches who have played in the CWS... Virginia starter Danny Hultzen's six strikeouts gave him 157 for the season, which ranks second nationally. He has 387 in his career... Virginia's pitching staff has a 1.31 ERA in seven NCAA tournament games.