OMAHA, Neb. – For three years, Taylor Walls has heard about TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.
On Thursday afternoon, Walls and his teammates on the Florida State baseball team laid eyes on the stadium, which has hosted the College World Series since 2011, for the first time.
Safe to say it did not disappoint.
“It’s all you hear about, seeing that stadium,” said Walls, the Seminoles’ junior shortstop. “To finally see it and see how big it is, it’s exciting. And we’re all ready to play.”
They’ll have to wait a little while for that.
Florida State won’t take the field until Saturday night, when it meets LSU at 8 p.m. In the meantime, the Seminoles will hold an open practice at TD Ameritrade Park on Friday, followed by press conferences and the tournament’s opening ceremonies in the evening.
Oregon State and Cal State Fullerton open the CWS on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“It’s an amazing experience coming in and seeing what Omaha has to offer and what a baseball town this really is,” senior second baseman Matt Henderson said. “It’s cool.”
The Seminoles got a quick look at that upon their arrival.
After a surprisingly fast flight from Tallahassee, the Seminoles made their way to their team hotel, where they discovered a few dozen young fans already waiting with fresh baseballs and Sharpies.
“As soon as you get off the bus, you’re just welcomed by fans,” Walls said.
“I knew it was a big baseball town and they set up big time for the tournament,” Henderson said. “It’s a little bit overwhelming, but I’m just trying to enjoy every moment.”
The Seminoles signed autographs in the lobby for a few minutes, checked into their rooms and then reconvened for a team dinner.
They’ll have fun tonight, but, come Friday, the Seminoles will turn their attention toward the Tigers.
FSU and LSU each have a reasonable claim as the hottest team in the country.
The Seminoles are 12-1 in their last 13 games and 24-6 in their last 30. That includes a sweep through the ACC tournament and victories over eventual national seeds Louisville (which is also in Omaha this week) and North Carolina.
LSU, meanwhile, owns a 16-game winning streak along with an SEC tournament crown.
With two of college baseball’s premier programs meeting on Saturday night – FSU (22) and LSU (18) have combined for 40 CWS appearances – there ought to be a full house at TD Ameritrade Park.
And considering that the stadium holds 24,000 people, that means the current Seminoles will be playing in front of the largest crowd of their lives.
“It’s a different experience,” Henderson said. “But a game’s a game.”
And a stadium, after all, is still just a stadium. A few moments after taking his first look at TD Ameritrade Park, Walls echoed the same sentiment he expressed after FSU clinched its College World Series berth late Sunday night.
The Seminoles are happy to be here, but they’re not only happy to be here. They want to earn the program’s first national title.
“We’re here to win,” Walls said. “That’s the ultimate goal. We’re not here to have a party or have family come down or sign autographs.
We’re here to win a ring and a championship.”