By Rob Lindquist
As a short-time resident of an Omaha suburb, to me, the dawn of the College World Series means a crowded Old Market and NoDo (local slang for the bar district and the stadium area in the North Downtown area). The streets are bustling, the beer-tents are packed and tourists from around the nation (mainly LSU and Texas fans) are still getting used to the openness of TD Ameritrade Park. Don’t get me wrong, the new stadium is great, but something is missing. Something that Rosenblatt had. Nostalgia.
Nostalgia can’t be forced, no matter how much ESPN tries. There were some great games played at the Blatt, like the recent Oregon State vs. North Carolina rivalry over two Series in 2006-2007, the LSU domination with five championships between 1991 and 2000 or the Southern Cal teams in the early ’70s that I came to hear from the locals. I’m sure over time TD Ameritrade will get there on its own.
The greatest ballparks in the Majors are still the greatest because of their history. Wrigley Field in Chicago is turning 100 this year, and Fenway in Boston is 102. The players that set foot on those fields, no matter how insignificant it may seem, are a part of history, playing on the same field as some of the greatest of all time. The players did what players do now, play their hardest to get to a championship. So why not recognize those collegiate players in a nostalgic way? Collegiate baseball cards.
Who knows, maybe we can force the issue. Kids can look at those cards and remember the time they traded away their Darwin Barney 2007 card for the Jackie Bradley, Jr. 2010 MVP. Growing up, the baseball cards from the 60s were rare to me. I didn’t care who was on them, I just wanted them. The 80s and 90s Topps and Upper Deck cards had the most value. But that’s because I had so many of them. As I think back, my most valuable cards were a Topps Stadium Club 1991 Nolan Ryan Tuxedo card, and a 1989 Fleer Ultra Gold Glove Ryne Sandberg card (I’m sure they’re worth a total of a pack of gum now, but that’s not the point). Who wouldn’t want to open a pack of CWS cards up and find a Dave Winfield card from 1973 (I had to look that year up, but it’d still be great).
Maybe it’s because I’ve just opened the door on my 30’s, but baseball cards don’t seem just as popular now. Because they’re not digital, they aren’t as fun. But, being able to hold onto a piece of 2×3 cardboard with your favorite player on it, just to stick it in the bike tires of a banana-seat two wheeler was an experience every child had to have in order to move to the next stage of their life. And, seriously, I had one of those bikes with Atari Space Invaders graphics. Have you seen The Goldbergs? That was pretty much my life growing up, but I was more awkward.
So the biggest problem: who gets the money for the card sales? With the NCAA whoring athletes abilities for their financial gain, the wrong move is to let them take the profit. There’s no players union (yet) to distribute funds. Plus, in reality, the margin of making money on baseball cards is minimal because of popularity. Most people (outside of the Omaha audience) only pay attention during the CWS. So money made should be donated to organizations that promote youth baseball. While Little League was where I learned to love the game, I fear they are becoming too big for their britches. Smaller, rural teams could profit. Independent leagues and teams could use the funds to create better conditions. NCAA athletes could put a check on their resumes for charitable work by seeing these funds get put to use and promoting the game. Field of Dreams, people! Maybe Bad News Bears is more comparable (Walter Matthau), but you get it. You’re nostalgic right now.
The NCAA College World Series needs baseball cards to bring some nostalgia back to the game. There is a history that Rosenblatt created, and until TD Ameritrade can create some memories worth remembering, there is a void. Plus, collegiate baseball cards seem more reasonable than the higher-ups moving the fences in to create more offense (I don’t think changing the seams on the ball will be the answer either).
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