I took the Fourth of July weekend to recharge from the two weeks of fun and craziness that resulted from the Coastal Carolina University baseball team’s victorious College World Series run. Over the last couple days I tried to pin down what I thought was the biggest story of this remarkable feat. With the local and national media already covering all the angles from the impact on the university to the legacy of Gary Gilmore to the legendary Cinderella story to the memorable cast of fun student-athletes and quirky dugout props, I looked for something a little different.
It turned out that the “something” I mentioned above is really two things for me. Yes, when I remember the College World Series run 20 years from now, I will remember a couple key things.
1. A national championship was won
2. A community was recognized
In regards to my first point, I don’t even think about the underdog aspect of it. You see, numerous powerhouse programs compete for the baseball national championship each and every year. Many more average programs and mid-majors do as well. At the end of it all, 294 Division I college baseball teams come away disappointed. Only one team stands atop that mountain as champions. It doesn’t matter if you are a favorite, a Cinderella, or a dark horse, winning a national championship is the prized goal.
The Coastal baseball team attained it.
When you open up a book of baseball history 100 years from now and look at the list of champions, you won’t see any information on whether a certain school was supposed to win or not. Rather, you will just see that school’s name.
So what I am trying to say is that I realize the fact that a medium-sized, mid-major university winning the College World Series is a big selling point right now. However, over time that part of the story might fade but Coastal’s achievement as the best team in college baseball in 2016 never will. Let that soak in. Coastal Carolina University is home to a national champion and nothing will ever take that away. I love an underdog story but to me they are just the champs.
The other part of the College World Series experience I will remember is the remarkable support and pride that swept over the whole Grand Strand area and much of the state over the past few weeks. Now I know any community will embrace a team when it brings back a championship but this situation is just a little different.
Our state is home to two giants in higher education, Clemson and South Carolina. Sometimes a young institution such as ours with a smaller enrollment and alumni base can get overlooked by others. The run to baseball glory brought national attention squarely on Coastal Carolina University and #TEALnation shined. Just as our student-athletes exhibited passion and pride on the diamond each night, the Conway community represented itself with the same principles as well. Other Palmetto State citizens saw this and jumped on.
Covering the welcome back event at the airport on Thursday night was insane. There was an energy in the air that was unmistakable. Although my career has been short, it was one of the coolest moments I have ever experienced. When the student-athletes ran off that plane they brought some leftover Omaha mojo and combined it with the hunger and desire that was brought by the crowd, producing an unbelievable scene. The atmosphere was awesome and our Coastal Carolina community was fostering it.
The same show of support was on display a day later at the ceremony in Springs Brooks Stadium. The place was packed with teal and it was almost a surreal moment. However, with the national championship trophy resting comfortably on the podium it reminded us all that it was in fact reality and that the Coastal Carolina/Conway community was alive and well.
I may never be associated again with a school that wins a major Division I national championship. Most people never are. I would sincerely like to thank our student-athletes and coaches for taking Coastal Carolina University on this unforgettable ride. Don’t Blink.