The eight College World Series teams were parading down the middle of the field as the sky darkened and TD Ameritrade Park staffers frantically cleared hundreds of chairs from behind home plate.
Each squad got its Olympic-style introduction. Small-scale fireworks, shot off from the outfield, and a short video highlight package dramatized each entry.
But as soon as the teams had all emerged from center field and marched toward home plate, the CWS opening ceremonies were cut short.
The event lasted about 15 minutes, starting early and ending abruptly as severe weather threatened the area Friday night.
“We didn't want people in the stands, we didn't want the kids on the field (in a storm),” said Jack Diesing, president of CWS of Omaha Inc. “Better to be safe than sorry.”
The National Weather Service office in Valley issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Douglas County a few minutes before the opening ceremonies got underway. Quarter-size hail and 60-mph wind gusts were associated with the storm.
The 24,000-seat stadium was a little less than half full at 8 p.m., and most fans left before the rain started to fall before 9 p.m. Everyone else, passing the time in the concourses, was treated to a fireworks show around 10:15 p.m.
Diesing said he and his staff began formulating contingency plans around 7:45 p.m. They eliminated some awards presentations and promotions. Keynote speaker Orel Hershiser never took the microphone.
Getting the players on the field was the most important part of the night, though, Diesing said. Last year's opening ceremonies were canceled because of weather. There was a private event for the teams and their families, but not a stadium-wide introduction for each squad participating in the CWS.
The TD Ameritrade Park grounds crew rolled the tarp on to the outfield while the teams were making their entrances, but the protective sheet wasn't pulled over the infield until all squads had been introduced.
Hundreds of chairs set up behind home plate, presumably to hold the eight teams during the event, were removed just as the festivities began. A table with a couple of trophies was taken off the field, too.
A public address announcement encouraging fans to prepare themselves to take shelter in the concourses came soon after that.
The Lincoln Southeast High School marching band, which got rained out of last year's CWS opening ceremonies due to inclement weather, once again was unable to perform.
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