It's time for that annual fan-friendly event, the College World Series, which is as readily identifiable with Omaha as potholes and unreasonable property taxes. To make it easier for fans following their team who may be unfamiliar with Omaha, we've compiled our 2013 CWS Visitors Guide.
It's important to realize that security at TD Ameritrade Park is paramount, so upon entering be prepared to have your bag searched, your shoes X-rayed, your water bottle seized and for you to be held upside down by the ankles and vigorously shaken. But this is all routine. (If security takes your bottle of water, chugs all but the last swallow and hands it back to you while saying, “Enjoy the game,” notify an usher.)
The most important thing to remember is do not under any circumstance attempt to carry an umbrella into the stadium. I wouldn't say officials have no patience for umbrellas, but the last person to try bringing one in ended up spending the game locked in a utility closet.
If there is a long weather delay, there are all kinds of fun things to do around the stadium. For example, taking a magic marker and writing your name on one of the plaques denoting wealthy TD Ameritrade Park donors. Dads may also enjoy sampling a brewski from one of the estimated 177 beer gardens surrounding TD Ameritrade Park or hitching a ride on one of the party buses that pass by every 2.4 seconds.
The annual CWS Fan Fest offers a plethora of fun activities that should appeal to all fans between the ages of 7 and 8. There is typically a batting contest inside a mini-stadium, which usually offers the fan's best chance of seeing a home run anywhere in the vicinity of spacious TD Ameritrade Park.
Getting around town
The fastest way to get from Point A to Point B in Omaha is to disguise every family member as an orange traffic cone and run through closed roads. Otherwise, it's very difficult. But if one is patient and willing to carry a bedroll, food and water in your vehicle, one can enjoy some of the Omaha attractions. You can also try to catch a ride on a bus. Just don't ask any locals for advice on taking the bus. I know people who have lived here 40 years and have not managed to figure out our bus routes, which are loosely based on a centuries-old French maze.
Things to do
For starters, the Durham Museum on 10th Street features a million-year-old dinosaur, so it's almost like Gene Stephenson is here.
For those who want to look at live animals, the Henry Doorly Zoo boasts a new 9-foot Komodo dragon that can consume 80 percent of its body weight at one meal — sort of like a CWS fan at Anthony's.
If you haven't had enough baseball, the Class AAA Omaha Storm Chasers play at Werner Park. Visitors will probably never find it, but if they do, be prepared to enjoy the only professional baseball stadium in North America with a waterslide down the third-base line.
Visitors staying in a local hotel or motel during the College World Series hopefully brought lots and lots of money. Through some eerie, unexplained phenomenon, hotel rates always seem to rise a day or so before the College World Series. (If hotel operators see you approaching in an Indiana T-shirt, plan on them raising the rates an additional 10 percent.) If you are on a budget, I understand motels in the town of Alliance, in western Nebraska, are reasonable, but plan on a seven-hour drive to the stadium.
There are many conveniently located restaurants near TD Ameritrade Park. If you didn't make a reservation last February, expect to stand in a line that ends somewhere around runway two at Eppley Airfield.
Local television in Omaha can be quite exciting and interesting, and I'm defining “exciting and interesting” as five “Wheel of Fortune” episodes per day and 15 “M*A*S*H” reruns.
The Omaha World-Herald publishes seven days per week and will be featuring special College World Series sections that are roughly as thick as the Beijing phone book. We don't just cover wins and losses, but also offer in-depth human-interest stories, like our upcoming four-page feature on the LSU assistant trainer's third cousin's Gatorade bottle collection.
The odds of finding a convenient parking spot directly in front of the stadium are approximately the same as winning the Powerball lottery. But only a stone's throw from the stadium is the massive TD Ameritrade Park parking lot, which can accommodate pretty much every car in the state. Just probably not yours, if you arrive less than an hour before game time. These fans should plan on parking in a lot a few blocks from the stadium for anywhere between $10 and $20. (Indiana fans can expect to pay $30 to $40.)
If you feel you've been gouged for anything, the Omaha visitors bureau asks that you call a special hot line: 555-555-5555.
The best way to save money at the College World Series is to walk up to a group of fans who are cooking in front of a Winnebago and say something like, “Dude! It's been so long,” and then begin eating the strangers' food. This is usually perfectly OK, but doggie bags are frowned upon.
Souvenir tents around TD Ameritrade Park will be selling loads of practical memorabilia. For instance, this year there's a UCLA hubcap and a Mississippi State earwax removal system. Oh, and don't forget to purchase an official College World Series, NCAA-sanctioned toothpick for only $29.99.