June 24, 2007

College World Series Capsules

College World Series Schedule and Recaps


Omaha becomes reunion spot for 'Beaver Believers'


By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


OMAHA, Neb. - After Oregon State shut down Rice for the second straight night last year to reach the championship series of the College World Series, Frankie Wu started dialing.


"As soon as we won, I was on the phone," said Wu, a 1982 OSU graduate who grew up in Corvallis and now lives in Lake Forest, Calif. "I kind of pushed and called everybody."


He called guys like Rich Cramer and Scott Ball, guys he grew up playing baseball with at Corvallis Parks & Recreation. His message was simple: Let's go to Omaha.


"To even be close to a national championship in any sport, it's huge news for us," said Cramer, a stay-at-home dad who lives in Portland. "This is not going to happen a lot."


Yet, a year later, the dozen or so Corvallis buddies and Oregon State graduates - and another dozen or so friends of friends - whose friendships date 40-plus years are back in Omaha, cheering the Beavers as they go for a second straight national title.


"I booked my flight early...I looked at that bracket - it was borderline," said Wu, who admitted it didn't look like an easy road with Virginia, Vanderbilt and Arizona State likely in the Beavers' path. "I just decided to do it. I tried to convince the other guys. I don't think many of my friends booked ahead of time."


But there they were Sunday afternoon at Billy Frogg's in Old Market - the same spot they hung out last year as their beloved Beavers rallied to overcome North Carolina in the championship round.


Cramer, Ball and Mike O'Donnell were among a group that played against baseball against each other as kids and with each other - and one Harold Reynolds - in American Legion ball.


Ball, who gets to see his alma mater play each year as baseball sports information director at California, reminisced about going over to campus and use the baseball and football fields.


"We got kicked out of the football stadium," O'Donnell quipped.


O'Donnell, a hazardous waste inspector who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., used to pal around with Cramer, who lived down the street from Dick Fosbury, whose "Fosbury Flop" of going over the bar backward revolutionized the sport of high jumping. They said they had only seen each other a handful of times before reuniting in Omaha.


"It's like a reunion - that's a big motivator for me to come," said O'Donnell.


So, too, was the fact that he missed last year's run to the title.


"I can never forget sitting on the couch thinking: I could have been there, I should have been there. "My friends would never let me forget it."


Friends like Richey Ruiz, who has been in Omaha the whole time and whom Cramer affectionately calls "the unofficial Mayor of Corvallis." And others like Kenny Booster (Portland), Rory O'Donnell (San Francisco), Robert Tu (Danville, Calif.), Tim Finnigan (Portland), Mike Hearing (Corvallis), Michael Morrow (Corvallis), Lee Batson (Portland), Mike Vahl (Riverside, Calif.) and Kyle Doyle (Nashville, Tenn.).


They wore "Beaver Nation" T-shirts and OSU jerseys. They chatted it up with a confident trio of North Carolina girls. They got ready to support a team that even to them - diehard Beavers fans - didn't think would be in a position to win a second national title.


"It says a lot for the coaches...look at all the players we lost," Wu said. "And a lot for the kids, too. We've got a lot of great kids."


And a lot of great fans.