10 Things About The College World Series

It’s June. That means it’s time to decide which university in the US gets to claim they are the best baseball team in the country. My own beloved Mississippi State Bulldogs hosted a Regional tournament and are now hosting a Super Regional series. If they win tonight (I’m writing this during the 5th inning on Sunday night–we’re ahead, but I won’t count my chickens before they hatch), they’ll go to Omaha for the College World Series. If they lose, they’ll play again on Monday and have one last chance.

If you can’t tell, I’m in a baseball state of mind. But I know not all of the writing community knows much about sports. I’ve said before that world building with athletic events can help give your characters something to bond or fight over. It can be a gathering place, an ice breaker, or just something to round out the feel of a full society. I’ve done a post that looks at the evolution and/or championships of other sports, so let’s take a look at baseball.

Here are 10 Things you might not know about the College World Series.

  1. It’s called the College World Series because it is the collegiate version of the MLB (Major League Baseball) World Series. The MLB is called the World Series because of a challenge thrown down between the Pittsburg Pirates (best team in the National League that year) and the Boston Red Sox (best team in the American League that year) in 1903. The owner of the Pirates challenged Boston to a World’s Championship Series. Boston won, but a tradition was born. The named was shortened to World Series and became an official league tradition in 1904. The “World Series” is trademarked by Major League Baseball and licensed to the NCAA for the CWS. Since MLB’s World Series decides the best team in the US (and one in Canada) the actual World Champion today is determined by the World Baseball Classic.
  2. The first College World Series was played in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1947. Eight teams were divided into two single elimination (lose once and you’re out) playoffs. The winner of each playoff competed in a best of three series.
  3. In 1948 the playoffs became double elimination.
  4. The tournament moved to Wichita, Kansas in 1949.
  5. 1950-present the tournament is held in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2011 a contract with the NCAA extended the tournament’s presence in Omaha to at least 2035. Realistically, fans treat the CWS and Omaha as synonymous so moving the tournament would be a big decision for the NCAA.
  6. From 1950 to 2010 the CWS was played in Rosenblatt Stadium. Originally built in 1947 as Omaha Municipal Stadium for a minor league baseball team, it was renamed in 1965 to honor the former mayor of Omaha. Johnny Rosenblatt was part of the initial team to work toward bringing (and keeping) the tournament to Omaha.
  7. The tournament actually lost money for ten of the first twelve years that Omaha hosted it, but a small group of local individuals, including Mayor Rosenblatt, fought hard to keep the tournament coming back.
  8. In 2011 the CWS began playing in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha after Rosenblatt Stadium was demolished. The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium now owns the Rosenblatt land and plans to use it to expand the current zoo grounds while also building a Little League sized park in honor of the site’s history.
  9. In the early 1950s, there were no preliminary rounds (no Regionals or Super Regionals). The eight teams to play in the CWS were chosen by committee from each of the eight NCAA districts. This changed in 1954 when the first preliminary rounds (Regionals) were introduced. The format evolved again in the 1980s (the final championship was a single game and not a series) and the early 2000s (the Super Regionals evolved). The current format has remained the same since 2003 (the championship is now a series).
  10. Former US President George Bush played on Yale’s CWS baseball teams in the CWS in the late 1940s. He was First Baseman for the Bulldogs.

Unlike some of the other sports I’ve done posts about, the NCAA Division 1 Baseball Championship, aka the College World Series, is very closely linked with its longtime location. Fans refer to the preliminary tournaments as “The Road to Omaha”. There are sports all the way back to the ancient world that are associated with a specific place. This might be because of the origin of the sport, or the magnitude of the competition, but it can also relate to the traditions of the spectators. And sports, especially ones that draw large crowds, affect the places that host them. It can boost the economy or drain town finances. All of this can help shape the world you’re building in your story.

College Baseball’s Game of Thrones

The 2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament begins on Friday with the Regionals. The winner of each Regional will go on to play a Super Regional. Winners of the Super Regional will proceed to Omaha, Nebraska to compete in the College World Series. The whole process takes multiple gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, glorious weeks. It’s a thing of beauty. And pain. But in the end the last team left standing gets to claim the title of National Champion until next year when they are challenged for the title in a new tournament.

You might say they are playing for the College Baseball Throne.

Oh wait, Mississippi State (my beloved alma mater) already hosted a Game of Thrones theme night and has that throne. Side note: we’re also hosting a Regional this weekend. I sincerely hope they bring the throne out again.

It’s gorgeous.

Confession: I never really watched Game of Thrones. Don’t come at me with your indignation, I know the plot and most of the details because I don’t live under a rock. Also, I read the first book in the series, but I’ll spare you that rant. It’s a fight for another day.

Regardless of the fact that I haven’t spent the better part of the last several years following the saga of the Iron Throne, the baseball version is amazing. It’s the perfect collision of Sports and Fantasy. It’s the crossover I never knew I always wanted. And I most definitely want it.

I would set it in my living room as a conversation piece. Unfortunately, the conversation would probably go something like this –
Normal Human Person: Is that a throne made of baseball bats?
Me: Yes! Isn’t it great?
NHP: But why is it in your house?
Me: Because it’s a throne. Made of baseball bats.
NHP:…
Me:…
NHP: But why?
Me: Because it’s a THRONE made of BASEBALL BATS.
NHP: No, I get that, but why would you want something like that?
Me: I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.

The Regionals start this Friday. The Game of Baseball Thrones is upon us. Omaha is coming.

Free Books!

Were more beautiful words ever spoken?

I love to read and so do my kids, hence our affinity for the local library (and the church library, and our “home library” which is actually just the guest bedroom that happens to have several bookshelves in it). Buying new books can get expensive, so getting them for free allows us to indulge our passions even more often.

But getting free books you get to keep? Even better! And if you are like me and mine, you jump at book giveaways. There are two opportunities this summer that we know of that cost absolutely nothing to get started and can result in a free book. I’ll share these with you in hopes that if you know of any more you’ll share them with me.

First, the local library’s summer reading program. For children and adults, if you join the summer reading program, you get a free book to take home (and keep). You have to choose from a set stock, but hey, free is free. And it’s not just for kids. Adults can join the SRP too! And while this is specific to my local library, I know there are a lot of others with similar program kick-offs so check with yours. The worst that could happen is that you end up in a library.

The second opportunity is through Barnes and Noble. They have their own version of a summer reading program. This one is only for kids (as far as I know), but it’s still free books. You have to go to your local B&N and get a reading log to fill out. The child keeps track of how much they read and the parent signs off on it. During the month of August you return the completed reading log back into the B&N location and get a free book for your efforts. I learned about this via an online press release, so if you want to call your local B&N to confirm this is actually happening, I don’t blame you.

Huzzah for promoting literacy! Free books all around! Here’s to a well-read summer!

ADHD is my Writing Partner

When I sit down to write, I’m never alone. And it’s not just because I have kids and am never physically alone. It’s because I have a writing partner. She’s always available whenever I sit down to write. Actually, that’s shortchanging her involvement in my life. She “helps” me with every aspect of my day. She’s my ADHD.

The great thing about writing with ADHD is that I’m naturally creative. My mind wanders and asking “what if” is practically a reflex. I’m not afraid to throw the rules out the window (after I’ve shown that I understand them). And when I’m researching something for a scene, I’m not just focused, I’m hyperfocused. I can spend hours reading articles, watching interviews, scouring historical texts and not bat an eye.

The hard thing about writing with ADHD is that I ask “what if” so often that I keep changing the story and never actually finish it. I can also become so intent on something that I end up burned out or overwhelmed. I can’t just sit down to write. I have to go through a list of coping techniques just to get started. Cut out as many distractions as possible. Have all necessary materials handy because if I have to get up and go searching for something, I might not return to my desk for hours–or at all. Set a phone alarm so that I stop working after a reasonable amount of time. Set small, attainable goals for a given time period so that I have a self-imposed deadline to meet. These things–and my other plethora of tricks–all seem so simple, but without them, I’m only setting myself up for failure.

It’s a gross oversimplification, but when asked what it’s like to have ADHD I sometimes say that it’s like someone else has the remote to the television in my head and they keep changing the channel without my consent. I’ve had to find a way to take the batteries out of the remote. But my ADHD, she’s a crafty one. She sometimes has back-up batteries.

To help give you a better idea, when my sister was diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication, she called me just a few days later in awe. “Kathryn, when I got home today, I realized that I could remember the entire drive home. It was so weird!”

We don’t black-out when we drive. We’re paying attention, but our mind dumps all that information as soon as we’re done using it because it’s deemed unimportant. We don’t NEED to remember that we stopped at the stop sign and waited our turn. It’s not required that we remember sitting at the stoplight until it turned green. We did it and now it’s gone. So we get home and unbuckle our seat belt to realize that we don’t remember actually driving there. But we can probably tell you every song on the radio during the drive, the entire life story of our favorite author, and what event signified the end of the Viking Age. Because that, for some strange reason, is what our ADHD brains choose to retain. It’s not so much “attention deficit” as it is “attention selective” and I don’t always get a choice about what’s selected.

When I was in high school, I would study for major tests with the radio on. Then when I was taking the test, when I came to a hard question, I would think about what song was playing while I studied that chapter. Singing the song in my head would bring back some of what I was reading during the same song the night before. I don’t know if this works for everyone with ADHD, I just know it was a coping technique that helped me.

So when I sit down to write, I have no trouble juggling an ensemble cast and remembering all of their life stories. I struggle with constantly wanting to change them. Writing a fun or action-packed scene is no problem, but writing the subsequent reaction scene is difficult. Finishing is difficult. Remembering to come up for air is hard. Not feeling like a failure when I spend hours at the keyboard and walk away with only half a page of words to show for my effort is a battle.

Whenever I sit down to write, it’s not just me. It’s me and my ADHD. Some days she’s a big help, other days she’s a massive hindrance to my progress. But she’s always there–dependable if nothing else.

Disclaimer: I only reference my ADHD experience and that of my sister because that’s what I am familiar with. Your experience may greatly differ. I have several other friends and family who are diagnosed as well and who experience it a bit differently than I do.

Quality Feedback

I’ve talked with a writer friend of mine lately about some of the feedback she’s been getting on her manuscript. Some of it has been valuable and helped her improve the story in places. Some of it has been…less so. But as a writer, how do we tell?

Not all feedback your receive is going to be good. Not all of it is going to be valuable. And yes, they are very different. We all need constructive criticism to help us improve our skills as writers. Which means we have to be willing to accept it. Easier said than done sure, but when you look at it as an opportunity, it can almost be exciting.

But what happens when you get feedback that you question? There are a few things you can do.

  1. Get a second opinion from a trusted source. Hopefully you have someone who will be honest with you about your work and their opinion regarding what you’ve been told. \
  2. Ask yourself about the reader. Do they typically write/read in your genre? In your age market? Both can make a difference in what their expectations are.
  3. Ask yourself about the outcome. If you use their feedback and implement changes, how does that change the overall story? Are you comfortable with that?

The trick to that last one is that you have to be willing to be objective about your own work to really decide if the change will be a good one. Sometimes that means sitting on the feedback for a day or two and giving yourself time to mull it over. A lot of people get defensive about their work, but if we aren’t honest with ourselves, it will only make the journey take longer.

In the end, the story is still your story. You are the only one who can change it. Look through the feedback. Is it something that more than one reader has pointed out? Then you probably need to take it seriously.

On the other hand, if you find yourself getting feedback that feels wrong, you’ve examined the source, contemplated what the changes would mean for your manuscript and still think it’s just not going to work for you. That’s fine. If it happens a lot, ask why. Maybe you need to be more selective in your readers. It’s not necessarily true that the more feedback the better, if it’s coming from the wrong audience. That’s also when a trusted second opinion is most valuable. They can help you filter out what is usable commentary and what’s not.

But before you can get to the part where you are sifting through feedback, you have to finish your project (totally calling myself out here). Get writing!

Free Baseball

When most fans talk about free baseball, they mean the game has gone into extra innings. For those of you who are not fans of “the sportsball” that’s the equivalent of overtime in baseball speak. But this week, my experience with free baseball was a little different.

My alma mater (Mississippi State University) has a storied baseball program. We also have a shiny, newly rebuilt and redesigned stadium. Dudy Noble Field has been the home of Bulldog baseball for decades, and its latest incarnation–lovingly called The New Dude–is a thing of wonder. We have been itching to take the kids to a game there all season, but until this week hadn’t quite made it work.

On Tuesday night, the Bulldogs played an extra game. It was added to the schedule only two weeks ago. Admission was entirely free for everyone. Instead, the university asked for something a little different. Let me back up a minute.

Last month, Ruston, Louisiana and the college that calls it home (Louisiana Tech) suffered significant damage thanks to a tornado. The south has experienced quite a few tornados this spring and there are several areas in need. Unfortunately, that means that the aid is spread pretty thin.

Now, I’ve talked about the chainsaw and casseroles brigade that marches through the south when people are in need of help. But sometimes, you still need something more. The baseball game this week aimed to provide that something.

The game was a fundraiser. Instead of admission, each fan was asked if they would or could donate a little something to the Salvation Army who is leading relief efforts in Ruston. No donation was too small (none was required, because we know not everyone can).

It was too much for us to pass up. My husband and I picked our kids up from school and drove down. We donated to the Salvation Army on the way into the park, got to experience the New Dude, ate hot dogs and nachos, and the kids even got a foul ball. A great time was had by all. I don’t know what the totals were for donations that night, but I know they were changing out the donation buckets when we arrived at the field–a full forty-five minutes before the first pitch. Hopefully that means it was well worth it.

It certainly was for us.

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My 5yo putting his donation in the bucket.

Free baseball at the New Dude and a valuable lesson on giving what we can to help those in need–priceless.

About Mother’s Day

The question arose why I didn’t choose to do a Mother’s Day post for 10 Things. First, thank you to that one person who both reads my posts AND is nerdy enough to enjoy my monthly trivia purge.

Second, quite frankly I wasn’t sure I hadn’t already done one. I couldn’t remember if I did it last year and I didn’t have a lot of time last week to go looking. My oldest graduated preschool and my parents were in town, so I tackled what I had time to.

My third and final reason is that sometimes Mother’s Day is hard for me. I love my children and feel blessed to be their mother. Their tiny little handprint crafts and sweet cards with “I love you” in crazy and horrendous handwriting are the most beautiful works of art that I have ever been gifted. I have a stepmother who has borne that title for almost twenty years. In fact, when I talk about her to others, I often just refer to her as “my mom”. But I also have another mother. Not my mom. My Mama. And she’s been gone a very long time.

My biological mother passed away over two and a half decades ago when I was still just a child. I still miss her sometimes and not just on Mother’s Day. But that particular holiday can sometimes remind me of the pain of losing her.

I have three older siblings. Last year, one of my sisters, the oldest of us, posted an old picture of her with our mother on social media and wrote a brief message about how much we still miss her. I cried because it was beautiful. I cried because it was sad. I cried because I was jealous.

Being the youngest, I had less time with my mother than my siblings did. There are fewer pictures of us together. There are a number of pictures that my mother took of me, but so few with her in them. So few, in fact, that I could only really find two that were of a decent quality. There may be more hiding in photo albums that don’t belong to me, but I only have two of us together. Two.

Time can be cruel. It can take things from you. The sound of someone’s voice. The feel of their embrace. The soothing calm of their presence. Sometimes when I comb through my memories, I hear my sister’s voice instead of my mother’s (they sound very similar, but not the same). I have to fight to correct it. I cling to the sound of her laughter and pull it back from the abyss. I have a stranglehold on the memory of her singing me to sleep. Each year time threatens to take a little more of her from me. I have to fight back. Some years I am more successful than others.

Mother’s Day is the same. Some years, the day is filled with so much joy and amazement that I have no time to be sad at what I have lost. I’m too busy rejoicing in what I have gained. But there are some years that amongst the sweet happiness there is also sorrow. The tears are sometimes happy and sometimes sad, but either way, they are common on such occasions.

After my oldest son was born, we were part of a special Mother’s Day tradition at our church for new mothers. A woman sat at my table and started a conversation with me and before we were through I discovered that she, many moons ago, had been one of my mother’s students. We were in a different town–a different state even–but we made the connection. It was like a message from Mama. “I’m here. He’s beautiful. Congratulations.” And my heart was filled with joy. I cried.

So you see, not all of my tears on Mother’s Day are sad ones. But I often cry at least once. Even if just for a moment or two. And this year, I wasn’t ready to write about it all before her day. I can’t explain why writing about her two days after Mother’s Day is easier than writing about her two days before. It just is.

That’s why I didn’t write about Mother’s Day this year for my 10 Things. And to anyone out there who can relate, it’s not wrong to cry. Perhaps our experience with our grief can help others who are just starting such a journey.

In any case, Happy (late) Mother’s Day. I hope it was beautiful and that your tears were happy ones.