(Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Minda Haas Kuhlmann)
College baseball has so much to offer its fans. From unique team names to beautiful stadium backdrops to the true Cinderella story; college baseball lures new fans in every season.
What is behind the lure of the sport? It’s incredibly different from professional baseball. It’s different from unaffiliated baseball.
College baseball has its own identity.
College baseball has its own place in the history books.
College baseball is the home of the true Cinderella story.
What is a Cinderella Story?
We’ve heard it before in other sports; the Cinderella story that storms its way into the hearts of fans to win a championship. We’ve seen Cinderella stories in hockey (1980 men’s hockey 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to the gold medal).
We’ve seen Cinderella stories in college basketball (Butler Bulldogs reaching the finals in 2010 and 2011 as a mid-major school).
We’ve seen Cinderella stories in professional baseball (2007 Colorado Rockies that went to the World Series as the National League Wild Card team).
So, what defines a Cinderella story?
The Cinderella team technically doesn’t have to win their sport’s championship to be crowned a Cinderella story. A Cinderella story in sports occurs when the team achieves more success than typically expected.
College Baseball’s Lure
College baseball has a lure to it that seems to be unparalleled by any other sport. We see the lure in professional football, in college basketball, and in professional baseball, but college baseball has something most sports don’t: the intimacy of the stadiums.
This might seem like a bit out of left field but follow me here. College baseball stadiums, some of them quite old, offer an intimate look at the game of baseball.
This can be compared to Minor League stadiums, but it’s still not quite the same thing.
If you’ve never been to a college baseball game you are missing out on an incredible experience. From the die-hard student fans to the parents of the players, to the alumni to the lifelong local fans; college baseball offers a wide range of experiences when sitting in the stands.
Some of the mascots are the best in college sports. The views at some of the stadiums across the country can’t be beaten (Dudy Noble Field at Mississippi State, Baum Stadium at the University of Arkansas and PK Park at the University of Oregon come to mind).
College baseball stadiums hold anywhere from 2,500 to 12,000 fans. You might think that 10,000 or more fans in one stadium are not intimate. If that’s the case, you’ve never sat at a baseball game at LSU, Florida, or Oregon.
Sellouts are the norm throughout college baseball, even when the teams aren’t playing their hated rivals. You will be hard-pressed to find sellouts at Minor League games. The lure is there but it’s just not as strong as college baseball.
Why Does College Baseball Offer the True Cinderella Story?
Many of you might be wondering why college baseball offers the true Cinderella story. Let’s delve into that arena for a bit.
For starters, there is true parity in college baseball. You won’t find much of it in college basketball.
You definitely won’t find it in college football, where a group of outsiders selects the teams that will appear in the College Football Playoff.
It’s hard to find it in professional basketball, professional hockey, and definitely hard to find in professional football.
College baseball is set up in such a way that any team can find its way to Omaha for the championship round. It’s not an easy feat but it can be done.
There are two Cinderella stories that stand out the most when you look at college baseball: Coastal Carolina and Fresno State.
Coastal Carolina is the most recent Cinderella story, winning it all in 2016 in a winner-take-all final game over Arizona.
It was the first appearance for the program in the College World Series. This is just the second time a program won the title in its first appearance. The other time this happened was in 1956 when Minnesota knocked off Arizona.
Coastal Carolina was ranked as high as 11th in the country by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The program finished ranked first in the country across all four major polls after winning it all in 2016.
During their run to the title, the Chanticleers won six elimination games, including the 4-3 win over Arizona to take home the trophy.
The other Cinderella story from recent memory also won it all at the College World Series when the Fresno State Bulldogs took down the Georgia Bulldogs in 2008 two games to one.
Fresno State was unranked when it took down #8 Georgia for the title, the program’s first. The Bulldogs were the lowest seeded team to win the College World Series in history. They were fourth in the regional. 2008 marked Georgia’s sixth trip to the College World Series. It was just the fourth appearance in the championship round for Fresno State.
To this college baseball fan, the sport offers true Cinderella stories compared to all other sports, both professional and amateur. It’s just one man’s opinion, but the college baseball season simply can’t be beaten.