OMAHA, Neb. – The tailgating tradition at the College World Series in June is as beloved as at any pro or college football stadium in the fall.
Fans who for years have enjoyed brats and beverages with friends and strangers worried that the camaraderie and charm of the tailgating at the old Rosenblatt Stadium would end when the CWS moved to TD Ameritrade Park this year.
Some folks actually like the atmosphere better at the new downtown ballpark.
"This is even more sane that Rosenblatt used to be to us," said Paul Maloney of Jackson, Miss. "To out-of-towners, this is much more civilized. When authorities would come by (last year) they actually had to arrest people."
Public drunkenness had been an increasing problem the last years at Rosenblatt. A number of beer gardens popped up around the old stadium, and the libations flowed freely in the parking lots and on the streets.
Parking lot monitors patrol the expansive lots at TD Ameritrade Park, and there have been no reports of major problems.
Maloney said he and his wife, Traci, offer their grilled fare to appreciative lot monitors.
"They have nothing to do but eat duck poppers," he said. "This has been very tame."
Maloney believes tailgating will increase once the word gets out that the new stadium's lots are a fun place to meet and greet.
Maloney has tailgated at the CWS for five years.
"We always wanted to come up," he said. "We started with a two-door rental car and a single Styrofoam ice chest."
They upgraded their situation when they met fellow tailgater Pete Gunderson of Gretna, Neb., in 2007. Gunderson packs his truck with copious amounts of food and grilling devices, sets up in the parking lot and the party begins.
GROUND CREW IMPROV: The TD Ameritrade Park grounds crew put on a show during Monday night's rain delay.
About a dozen crew members stationed themselves on the warning track and encouraged the remaining fans in the stands to start the wave. Then they performed a silent version of "YMCA." By far the biggest crowd pleaser was the crew's make-believe baseball game on the wet tarp that rivaled any mime act.
Roger Dixon, who heads the agency that operates the stadium, said the antics didn't result in discipline.
"We've got a young crew out there that's very energetic and very proud of our facility and they enjoy it," Dixon said. "They did this on their own.
"No one is in trouble. It was a little bit of comic relief that decreased some of the tension in the stadium. Would I want them to do it again? Probably not. Am I going to say you can't do that again? No."
Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president for football and baseball, wasn't upset, either.
"This may not be a normal NCAA response," Poppe said, "but I kind of liked it. Those guys are doing the job and having fun. I hope they don't hurt themselves."
CAL COACH HONORED: California coach David Esquer had two things to celebrate Tuesday: his team's 7-3 victory over Texas A&M in an elimination game and being honored as the National College Baseball Writers Association coach of the year.
Esquer's program was targeted for demise last year before being saved by a $9 million fundraising effort. The Bears finished sixth in the Pac-10 and made it through super regionals after a close call in regionals.
The Bears bounced back Tuesday after a 4-1 loss to No. 1 national seed Virginia on Saturday.
Esquer, 354-311-2 in his 12 seasons at Cal, said the honor isn't his alone.
"You can't be a good coach without good players," he said. "It's been really, really gratifying and humbling to have both in one day."