• Photo Showcase: CWS Opening Ceremonies
• Photo Showcase: Thursday CWS practice
• Video Below: See videos of Stony Brook, Rosenblatt, UCLA and fan predictions
• Live: Friday's CWS coverage
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A group of Kent State players huddled around Nomar Garciaparra on Thursday night after stormy weather moved the College World Series opening ceremonies into a Civic Auditorium ballroom that didn't necessarily capture the CWS mystique.
Just wait, Garciaparra told the first-time CWS participants. Wait and see what a roaring TD Ameritrade Park crowd looks like.
“This city makes you feel like a big-leaguer,” Garciaparra said.
The opening ceremonies usually provide a nice preview of what to expect.
It's when the eight CWS teams march triumphantly across the field as fans applaud their arrival. There were supposed to be parachuters Thursday. Team-specific highlight reels. A special Flag Day salute. Fireworks, too.
But the threat of severe weather forced officials to cancel the annual celebratory event at TD Ameritrade Park, leaving all of the CWS newbies (like those curious Kent State guys) without a sampling of the game day atmosphere in Omaha.
Instead, all eight teams — plus family and friends — gathered with CWS officials for a private kickoff dinner inside the Civic Auditorium Thursday night.
Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle welcomed the teams. Jack Diesing, Jr., president of College World Series of Omaha Inc., spoke to the crowd of about 500 people as well. Then Garciaparra gave everyone the best guidance he could.
“Really just enjoy this experience,” said Garciaparra, now an ESPN commentator who played in the 1994 CWS with Georgia Tech.
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The players seemed to be following his advice. The same teams who'll start competing Friday for a national championship sat side-by-side without issue Thursday night.
A table of Florida players was right next to a group of arch-rival Florida State guys. All smiles, though. In fact, after the event a few Gators and Seminoles exchanged hugs and handshakes as they left the venue.
“Of course we all want to win,” Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said earlier Thursday. “But there is so much this event has to offer that I think the older you get and the more times you're able to luckily, hopefully get out here, you learn something.”
Garciaparra realized it after his collegiate career ended. That's what he told the audience during a short speech Thursday. He said the same thing, too, to those Kent State players, who stuck around for a few minutes after Thursday's dinner to pick the brain of a former major leaguer. All they talked about was Omaha.
The first thing Garciaparra said he asked his superiors at ESPN when it appeared he would be joining the network as an analyst in 2010 was this: Can I work the CWS?
“It was hands down one of the best experiences I've ever had,” Garciaparra said.
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• Video: Stormy weather caused the College World Series Opening Ceremony to be canceled to the public and moved from TD Ameritrade Park to the Omaha Civic Center. While there weren't any special effects or parachutters flying into the field, there was a lot of encouragement and excitement among the guest speakers and the teams. Watch the video to see a recap of yesterday's ceremony:
• Video: Stony Brook is a fan favorite in Omaha:
• Video: Fans say goodbye to Rosenblatt:
• Video: CWS fans tell us who they think will win:
• Video: UCLA takes the field: