Sunday, February 15, 2009

Baseball Place No. 9: Rosenblatt Stadium, and Place 9A: Ray Fisher Stadium and Wilpon Complex

I confess I have an aversion to Nebraska.

This probably comes from exposure to Cornhusker fans that would travel in hordes, take over our University of Missouri football stadium and cheer on their team full of monstrously huge farm boys as they beat the stuffing out of our Tigers.

So I was disappointed when Josh Pahigian directed us to Omaha and Rosenblatt Stadium as stop No. 9 in his list of "101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.

That’s where the College World Series has been played since 1950. It’s named after a semipro player who became mayor pushed to build the stadium. The Omaha Royals also play there.

Fearing a Husker flashback, I’ve never been to this stadium. But we do have an alternative:

Baseball Place No. 9A: Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex, University of Michigan

I’ve been to only one college baseball game, and it was at Ray Fisher Stadium in Ann Arbor. My colleague John Munson is a Michigan grad and frequent ballpark companion, and thought it would be fun to check out a Wolverine game.

And it was neat. The team played in a small brick stadium, coached by former Tigers star Bill Freehan.

It was very different from the college football experience. There weren’t too many fans in the stands, and it seemed to be a lot of family members. But at least we didn’t have to worry about drunken frat guys hurling on our shoes.

We learned that the back-up catcher’s job is to lumber into the parking lot and retrieve all the foul balls.

The stadium was revamped last year when Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his family donated $12 million to the program.

The Wilpons’ gifts also provided for a Sport Injury Prevention Center. Fred came to Michigan in 1954 under a baseball scholarship, but he injured his rotator cuff between his freshman and sophomore years.

Living in Flint at the time, we were pretty familiar with another Wolverine baseball player – Jim Abbott. You can read about encounters with him here.

No comments: