As the season gets ready to kick off in ballparks large and small around the country, we begin the final curtain call for one of baseball’s most influential stadiums, Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. Rosenblatt Stadium has been the home of the College World Series for 61 years, as well as being the home of the AAA Omaha Royals / Golden Spikes / Royals again. Starting in 2011, the College World Series will have its own brand new home in downtown Omaha, and the O-Royals move to suburban Papillon, Nebraska in a new $25 million facility.
Baseball America had a nice cover story recently called Rosenblatt Remembered, telling the story of the park from those who are a part of its lore. Ballpark Digest is chronicling nicely how the Royals will say goodbye, with special uniform patches, and a last-game event sponsored by AT&T.
I’ve only made one trip to Omaha, and I have to tell you, it’s a bit of a blur. I was on assignment in Des Moines, IA, and I found myself with a free afternoon. I had a rental car, and Omaha was only2 1/2 hours away, so off I went – due West to Omaha, with no real sense of how to get to the ballpark once I reached Nebraska. Fortunately, once you cross the border into Nebraska, it’s pretty much on the left.. hard to miss.
For a minor league game, it’s not a great park… with the expansion, it’s too big for the small gathering of baseball faithful I found there on a random Tuesday. You just always have a sense it’s meant for something more. The energy and the crowds of the CWS almost haunt the space. But it has a nice open feel, there’s plenty of parking, and lots of good seats generally available with room to relax.
It’s a closed concourse, meaning you generally cannot see the field from the walking areas behind the plate and down the baselines. I specifically remember two things about the food choices. First, there was an old Asian woman manning a cart selling mini egg rolls that were surprisingly good, considering my expectations for chinese ballpark food in Omaha. Secondly, there was an “International” stand along the 3rd base line, generally offering Mexican fare. I ordered a taco, but received the equivalent of Hormel chili on pita bread. Not a classic combination.
There’s so much history here – the walls are teeming with it. If you’re local, I would recommend going back one last time to say goodbye. Not many ballparks last 60+ years anymore, and this one has served us well.