CWS: Big leaguers say Omaha is baseball Mecca

JAKE SCHALLER Updated: June 19, 2009 at 12:00 am • Published: June 19, 2009

OMAHA, Neb. - Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street has played four-plus seasons in the majors, pitched in the playoffs and recently earned his 100th save at baseball's highest level.

But he still considers his experiences at the College World Series among the best of his baseball career.

"Those are, without question, some of the most fun baseball memories of my life," said Street, who made three trips to the CWS with Texas (2002-04). "I haven't been to a World Series (in the majors), and I think that would probably be the only thing that could top it."

The 63rd College World Series continued Friday as LSU defeated Arkansas and Texas overcame Arizona State. The games were shown on ESPN2, and flat-screen televisions in Major League Baseball clubhouses across the country almost certainly were tuned in so players could watch what San Diego Padres second baseman David Eckstein called baseball "in its purest sense."

"It's everything that's good about baseball, in my opinion," Street said of the CWS. "It's kids fighting for each other, fighting for their university, fighting for just love of the game and trying to do something special."

"It was probably, to this day, the most fun I've ever had playing," said San Diego Padres left fielder Chase Headley, a Fountain-Fort Carson grad who played in the 2005 CWS with Tennessee. "College is just different than pro ball. You're working out, you're going to class, everything is together. So it's different. You don't have the business aspects, so it's just a very emotional, very rewarding experience."

Headley was one of several players who talked about Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium as a baseball Mecca - like Madison Square Garden is for basketball and Lambeau Field is for football.

"The moment that I remember the best was when we clinched the Super Regional, knowing that we were going to Omaha," Headley said. "Because that's all you talk about as a team is going to Omaha. When we made that final out and dog-piled on the mound and we knew we were going to Omaha, it was a special feeling."

Bragging rights will be at stake in the Rockies clubhouse when Texas and LSU meet in the best-of-three championship round starting Monday. Shortstop Omar Quintanilla played at Texas (including two seasons with Street), while right fielder Brad Hawpe played for LSU's 2000 national championship team.

"Oh yeah, I've been watching them," Hawpe said of the Tigers earlier this week. "Real proud of them."

Three other Colorado players reached the CWS - second baseman Jeff Baker (with Clemson in 2002), pitcher Josh Fogg (with Florida in 1996 and '98) and first baseman Todd Helton (with Tennessee in 1995).

Helton, who said he remembers his CWS experience as "a great time in my life," said a trip to Omaha is a must for baseball fans. Eckstein agrees.

"I know one thing," he said. "Whenever I'm done playing some time later on in life, I'm definitely going to find my way out there."

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