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Friday June 18, 2010Gators in Omaha Blog

Omaha, Neb.

Sunday, June 20, 2010 :: 7:13 p.m. CT

 

The Florida baseball team spent Sunday afternoon touring Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb., a visit that was orchestrated by the base, which has served as UF’s team host at the College World Series.

 

Prior to becoming an Air Force base, Offutt Field served as a bomber plant that built B-29 Superfortresses and B-26 Marauders, including the Enola Gay and Bockscar, the B-29s that dropped the first atomic weapons to be used in a military action. More recently, the base is known as the site where President George W. Bush conducted one of his first major strategy sessions for the response to the September 11 attacks.

 

After driving on to the base, the athletes were given an introduction before being shown a number of the military weapons used by the Air Force base. The Gators then were given a bus tour of the base, including the opportunity to see the fleet of different airplanes used by the Air Force.

 

The evening concluded with a dinner on the base with Air Force personnel and enlistees before the Gators returned back to their hotel for the evening. Players were also given the option to go watch the Oklahoma-South Carolina game, which had been delayed for much of the afternoon due to inclement weather.

 

Remember, it’s Florida vs. Florida State at 4:30 p.m. ET Monday from Rosenblatt Stadium on ESPN2.

 

Stay tuned.

 

Sunday, June 20, 2010 :: 11:44 a.m. CT

 

Following Florida’s 11-3 loss to UCLA in its opening game of the College World Series (complete recap from GatorZone), the Gators have turned their sights to rebounding against intra-state rival Florida State. The two foes will square off at 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon in an elimination game from Rosenblatt Stadium.

 

Though Florida was disappointed with its effort in an opening-round loss, the Gators know that the only key to winning their fifth match-up with Florida State this season is to put the past behind them.

 

“We’re going to come out ready to play and put this behind us,” said Matt den Dekker. “We played them already four times this year, so we have an idea of what to expect. We’re going to come ready to play, come out with some intensity and get ready to go.” (Full press conference video).

 

The team will participate in a single practice on Sunday before spending some time visiting a military base this afternoon (more to come on the blog later today).

 

Here’s a few news articles covering last night’s game vs. UCLA:

 

Saturday, June 19, 2010 :: 5:08 p.m. CT

 

Less than an hour away from the start of Florida vs. UCLA in the second game of the College World Series. TCU defeated Florida State 8-1 in the opening game, meaning that the winner of this evening’s game will face the Horned Frogs and the loser will square off with the Seminoles. Those games are slated for Monday.

 

We’ve received the starting lineups for both squads here in the press box and they are as follows:

 

UCLA

  • SS – Niko Gallego
  • CF – Beau Amaral
  • DH – Blair Dunlap
  • 3B – Dean Espy
  • 2B – Cody Regis
  • LF – Chris Giovinazzo
  • 1B – Justin Uribe
  • RF – Brett Krill
  • C – Steve Rodriguez
  • (P) – Trevor Bauer

 

FLORIDA

  • SS – Nolan Fontana
  • CF – Matt den Dekker
  • 1B – Preston Tucker
  • 3B – Austin Maddox
  • DH – Brian Johnson
  • C – Mike Zunino
  • LF – Tyler Thompson
  • 2B – Josh Adams
  • RF – Jonathan Pigott
  • (P) – Alex Panteliodis

 

Be sure to tune in to ESPN, the Gator Radio Network, @GatorZoneBB on Twitter and www.GatorZone.com for complete game coverage.

 

Saturday, June 19, 2010 :: 10:49 a.m. CT

 

It’s gameday here in Omaha, Neb., with Florida and UCLA set to square off at 7 p.m. ET from Rosenblatt Stadium. The game will be carried live on ESPN.

 

To get you ready for what is to come, here’s a few links to some of the news articles out there this morning:

 

 

Friday, June 18, 2010 :: 10:56 p.m. CT

 

For many collegiate baseball players, a trip to Rosenblatt Stadium is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What the Gators and seven other teams got to experience on Friday evening was a last-of-a-lifetime opportunity.

 

After 61 years of playing host to the College World Series, the historic venue will be closing its doors following the 2010 season. The opening-night ceremonies in which the Gators participated had a special feel, as the event honored the tradition of the CWS at Rosenblatt Stadium.

 

The evening began with a police escort to Rosenblatt for a barbecue dinner with each of the other seven participating teams. Quickly devouring the feast, many players took the extra time to walk around the vicinity of the stadium that includes numerous street vendors, a fan zone and a number of other activities that have become as synonymous with the CWS as its stadium.

 

Each team was introduced and led in from the left-field corner of the field, across the outfield and over to seats behind home plate, while highlights of that team’s season played on the video board. The Gators were the third team to proceed across the field, in front of a crowd that packed the capacity of the entire grandstand (video).

 

Among the festivities, each school’s baseball player with the highest grade point average was recognized. For Florida, Hampton Tignor was the recipient of the team award. Following the introduction of each school’s recipient, the NCAA named its winner of the Elite 88 Award – the athlete with the highest GPA who advanced to the championship site in his/her respective sport.

 

The College World Series then honored its Legends Team to a standing ovation. The 28 members of the Legends Team, pared down from an original list of 95 nominees, were selected after more than 100,000 votes were cast by college baseball fans, college baseball writers and Division I head baseball coaches. The members of the Legends Team are former student-athletes and coaches who had the best CWS performances throughout the 60 years the event has been played at Rosenblatt Stadium.

 

Many of the members of the Legends Team were on hand, including top vote-getter Will Clark, famed San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds and Boston Red Sox standout Nomar Garciaparra. It was a special scene for each of the student-athletes on hand, many taking pictures with their mobile phones and basking in the greatness of the former CWS standouts. Perhaps no one enjoyed the festivities more than head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who stood on a chair with an ear-to-ear grin to get a first-hand look at the Legends Team as it was being introduced.

 

CWS LEGENDS TEAM

  • Will Clark, Mississippi State
  • Dustin Ackley, North Carolina
  • Bob Horner, Arizona State
  • Todd Walker, LSU
  • Spike Owen, Texas
  • Nomar Garciaparra, Georgia Tech
  • Darwin Barney, Oregon State
  • Sal Bando, Arizona State
  • Robin Ventura, Oklahoma State
  • Pat Burrell, Miami
  • Fred Lynn, Southern Cal
  • Dave Winfield, Minnesota
  • Terry Francona, Arizona
  • Barry Bonds, Arizona State
  • Mark Kotsay, Cal State Fullerton
  • J.D. Drew, Florida State
  • Steve Arlin, Ohio State
  • Burt Hooton, Texas
  • Eddie Bane, Arizona State
  • Huston Street, Texas
  • Jason Windsor, Cal State Fullerton
  • Landon Powell, South Carolina
  • Ryan Garko, Stanford
  • Pete Incaviglia, Oklahoma State
  • Brooks Kieschnick, Texas
  • Skip Bertman (Coach), LSU
  • Rod Dedeaux (Coach), Southern Cal (deceased)
  • Augie Garrido (Coach), Cal State Fullerton/Texas

 

A fireworks show then capped off the spectacular evening at Rosenblatt Stadium. While it may mark the end of an era, the Gators are looking for Friday night’s ceremony to be the first of many nights they will spend at the venue over the next few weeks in pursuit of a national championship.

 

Friday, June 18, 2010 :: 3:29 p.m. CT

 

The first full day in Omaha for the Florida baseball team has been a busy one, but just as likely one that each of the players will never forget.

 

It all started with a team photo in front of the “Road to Omaha” statue in front of Rosenblatt Stadium. Created by local Omaha artist John Lajba, the sculpture – placed in front of the main entrance in 1999 - shows three players celebrating by lifting one of their teammates in the air. Heading to the historic venue, just as collegiate teams have done since 1950, there was much talk among the Gators about the honor of playing in the storied venue for the final time in the history of the event.

 

An hour-long practice session took place on the field, allowing the athletes to take the field at Rosenblatt Stadium for the first time in each of their careers. It was a feeling that many couldn’t help but smile while trying to describe. Here’s what some of the Gators had to say about today’s practice.

 

Mike Zunino: “You get a sudden burst of energy. You feel like a little kid coming out here. The field has so much history on it, it’s amazing.”

 

Josh Adams: “It’s unreal. You can see it online, you can see it on TV, but unless you’re here, you can’t describe it. It’s just one of those feelings – you walk out here and see everybody here for batting practice. It’s an awesome feeling; it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.”

 

Preston Tucker: “I’m enjoying the atmosphere and just trying to soak it in, but I’m just looking forward to the game tomorrow and trying to get prepared for that.”

 

For a full video practice report from the guys at GatorVision, click here. There has been, and will continue to be, extensive coverage from GatorVision all week long. Be sure to check in with GatorZone.com often for the latest reports from GatorVision. The updated links will be posted here on the blog as well.

 

Following Florida’s practice, the Gators participated in an hour-long autograph session with fans on the concourse of Rosenblatt Stadium. Fans of all ages, from places across the country, and families of the team members waited in a long line to get the signature of their favorite players. Coach Kevin O’Sullivan spoke to the media following the autograph session with each of the three other coaches in Florida’s bracket. Video coverage of that press conference is available here.

 

After grabbing a quick bite of lunch, Florida is now back at the hotel. The team will head to dinner later this evening before participating in opening ceremonies at Rosenblatt Stadium. The special tribute “Farewell to Rosenblatt” will be central to tonight’s ceremonies. We will have full coverage of that event later tonight.

 

Just to catch you up with some news coverage of Florida’s participation in the College World Series, here’s a few links to stories about the Gators:

 

Thursday, June 17, 2010 :: 2:01 p.m. CT

 

The Florida baseball team has arrived in Omaha, Neb., a city that has become widely known as the Mecca of college baseball.

 

It’s not just the largest city in Nebraska with an estimated 438,646 residents. Omaha is the primary destination that all college baseball players set their sights on at the beginning of each season. For eight teams, including the Gators, that dream has become a reality.

 

For each member of Florida’s roster, this is the first time they will experience the College World Series as a participant. It’s the Gators’ first trip to the CWS since the 2005 season, when they recorded a program best runner-up finish.

 

The Gators arrived in Omaha just before Noon CT on Thursday afternoon, chartering a flight from Gainesville. After disembarking from the plane, the first stop of Florida’s bus was the storied Rosenblatt Stadium, which will, for the final time in 2010, host the College World Series.

 

As the bus came down the hill and the historic venue came into sight, there were “oohs” and “aahs” from Florida’s players, many of whom fixed the lens of their digital cameras on the stadium trying to capture a first-hand image. The team circled the stadium, taking in the aura of the venue before heading to the hotel to get checked in.

 

It gave the team a glimpse of just what they can expect over what is hopefully a two-week stay in the Midwest.

 

“From the smell of the funnel cakes to just watching the guys’ faces when they see Rosenblatt for the first time when they walk in, it’s just special,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said at Wednesday’s media session.

 

The Gators will have an easy Thursday before an action-packed Friday that includes an open-practice session, team autograph opportunity, and the opening ceremonies. It will be an historic evening on Friday, as a “Farewell to Rosenblatt” is planned among the festivities.

 

This is the first installment of a series of blog posts that will be featured on GatorZone.com over the course of the week and just a scratch on the surface of the coverage provided on the official Web site of University of Florida athletics.

 

We invite you to follow us through a number of avenues this week, which include:

 

Stay tuned and Go Gators!

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