Soaking it in: Ole Miss fans embrace the Omaha experience

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By John Davis

Oxford Citizen

OMAHA, Neb. – A football atmosphere that lasts 10 days may be the best way to describe the scene in and around the College World Series. And Ole Miss fans feel right at home.

Countless Rebel fans, dressed mostly in red, geared up for the matchup with Virginia Sunday night by tailgating with friends like so many do before football games.

David Rikard of Oxford got to the area outside the stadium at 7:30 Sunday morning in order to tailgate with his friends, and hold his spot in line.

“I got my tickets online through a service and I was able to get them delivered to Oxford before I even left, so I didn’t have to worry about that. They’re in general admission, in the outfield. We are so close to the gate, we’re going to line up as soon as anybody goes to line up,” Rikard said.

“We got guys that are going to rotate to hold our spot. We got 18 guys and 25 tickets. I expect us to have a bigger fan base than Virginia and I will be surprised if Hotty Toddy doesn’t ring out more than once.”

Rikard called the CWS atmosphere “amazing” and said everyone he had met was exceptionally nice.

“We met LSU fans and State fans. It’s just a great time and everyone is getting along wonderfully,” Rikard said. “We’re expecting the atmosphere inside to be amazing. I’ve personally been waiting on this for 12 years, and we cannot wait to get into the stadium. All of us die-hard fans, we’re here, we’re over the hump. If we can win a few games, it’s all great. It doesn’t matter wins or losses, we’re here.”

Mark Downs, also of Oxford, stayed in Lincoln Saturday night before driving in to Omaha Sunday morning. He said the atmosphere was unbeatable.

“It’s the mecca of college baseball. The stadium has 24,000 seats and it’s very much like a Major League park,” Downs said. “We’ve met other fans from the other schools participating and then folks from other schools that are participating. It’s been unbelievable.

“I’ve been to a Final Four and it’s more competitive among the fans. This is more like a party. It’s great fun.”

There are Mississippi State fans in town even though the Bulldogs didn’t make a second straight trip.

Traci Maloney of Jackson said she was pulling for the Rebels, while her husband, Paul, picked Ole Miss to be in the CWS after the South Carolina series. The two have been coming to Omaha since 2007.

“It’s kind of the Mardi Gras of college sports and if you think about it, what other college sport/tournament can you come and watch eight teams all come together? It’s just the mecca of baseball and fun and entertainment,” Maloney said. “It’s good for the SEC to have Ole Miss here. It’s good for Mississippi. Here we’re all on neutral ground…

“I think it’s great Ole Miss is here. They have a lot of talent. My husband sent out an email back during the season to his Ole Miss fans that they had the talent and they should book their room.”

And based on the turnout, it looks like a number followed that advice.

john.davis@journalinc.com