By John Davis
OMAHA, Neb. – Dan McDonnell and his family have never forgotten about Oxford, Ole Miss and his former boss, Mike Bianco.
Even though McDonnell left the Rebels after the 2006 season to take over the Louisville Cardinals, he still keeps up with how Ole Miss is doing on the field – and this year, McDonnell said the College World Series just feels better with the Rebels involved.
“I’m glad Ole Miss is in the bracket because I’m going to enjoy watching them with my family. I’ve already asked Mike for tickets Sunday night,” McDonnell said Friday before his Cardinals hit the practice field at TD Ameritrade Park.
“We’re going to be fans and we’re going to cheer them on.”
Louisville opens play tonight against Vanderbilt.
“I didn’t really come to many of the games last year here at the CWS,” McDonnell said. “I didn’t really get to enjoy any of the games. I didn’t have that reason to enjoy them like I do this year. Nothing against the other three teams, but I have a team to root for in that bracket.”
McDonnell said that his youngest son, Justin, who was born in Oxford, was still a die-hard Ole Miss fan.
“He watched the last game against ULL. I mean when they were winning, he’s jumping up and down and going crazy. He was wearing an Ole Miss jersey Sunday night,” McDonnell said. “He tried to show up in an Ole Miss jersey when they came to Louisville a few years ago and his mom made him take it off. She wasn’t going for that, which we kind of laughed at.”
“My son is an Eli Manning, Giants fan,” he continued. “He’ll tell you that Ole Miss is his favorite school and it’s fun to see his excitement because that’s where he was born, those are his roots.”
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Bianco called McDonnell earlier in the week to talk with him about Omaha and how much it has changed since 1997, the last time Bianco came as an assistant coach when he was at LSU. McDonnell said Bianco joked with him about all his trips – the Cardinals are here for the third time since 2007 and second straight season – during the conversation.
“I’m just so happy for him because in your own world, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” McDonnell said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those six years I was at Ole Miss. I was blessed, I hit the jackpot being able to coach with him. That gave me the preparation to to go Louisville and as we say, get a program to the level we were wanting to be at.”
“Sometimes you need a bounce or a break to go your way and I think everyone in college baseball realizes now that Ole Miss busted through the door, it just could be easier for them to get back over the next few years.”