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Volume 23 No. 8
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Closing Shot: Rosenblatt memories … and smells

South Carolina athletic director and NCAA baseball committee chair Ray Tanner, the last coach to win a national championship at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium, fondly remembers the home of the College World Series for more than 60 years.
Ray Tanner (center) and his 2010 Gamecocks celebrate their first of back-to-back titles, which straddled Rosenblatt Stadium and TD Ameritrade Park.
Photo: getty images
Ray Tanner (center) and his 2010 Gamecocks celebrate their first of back-to-back titles, which straddled Rosenblatt Stadium and TD Ameritrade Park.
Photo: getty images
Ray Tanner (center) and his 2010 Gamecocks celebrate their first of back-to-back titles, which straddled Rosenblatt Stadium and TD Ameritrade Park.
Photo: getty images

The smells. Ray Tanner will always remember the smells at Rosenblatt Stadium.

“There was always a grill going somewhere,” Tanner said.

It’s been almost a decade since the final College World Series was played at Rosenblatt in Omaha. After the 2010 CWS was played there, college baseball’s marquee event moved into sparkling new TD Ameritrade Park, which was closer to the city’s center. The 2019 edition of the CWS begins this weekend with eight teams traveling “The Road to Omaha.”

Tanner, who is now South Carolina’s athletic director, coached the Gamecocks baseball squad for 16 seasons. He had perhaps the most compelling viewpoint when the CWS changed addresses.

Tanner’s team won the final CWS at Rosenblatt in 2010, then turned around and won the 2011 championship at the new stadium. The two experiences were very different, Tanner said, even though both trips to Omaha ended with the Gamecocks in a dog pile celebrating a national championship.

“I had convinced myself, going into Rosenblatt in 2010, that this is Fenway,” Tanner said. “I knew it was the last year, of course, so wouldn’t it be great to make a deep run into the final season there.

“Then we go to TD Ameritrade and it was state-of-the-art, the Taj Mahal of stadiums at the collegiate level. The Yankee Stadium, if you will, the new Yankee Stadium. You know, it’s like leaving Fenway, going to the new Yankee Stadium. They are both tremendous, but that’s the transition, from Rosenblatt to TD Ameritrade. They’re very different, but extremely special.”

Tanner, now the chair of the NCAA baseball committee, expected the transition from Rosenblatt, which was built in 1947, to be more dramatic. Wouldn’t TD Ameritrade be more corporate, more antiseptic, as a new park compared with Rosenblatt’s personality? Perhaps, but each stadium has its own characteristics and, ultimately, it’s still eight teams competing for a championship over two weeks. That’s what makes the sport unique.

“I wondered if we could capture the essence of what the College World Series was about, or would it take time?” Tanner said. “I don’t think we missed a beat. It was like … we’re going from a historic stadium to a state-of-the-art stadium, and we just picked up where we left off. The biggest difference, to me, was the smells.”

Rosenblatt, whose grandstands came down in 2012, has since been acquired by the adjacent Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The site has been remade into a memorial for the old stadium.