Gator fans booking their trip to College World Series
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 6:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 6:54 p.m.
There’s a 1,300-mile drive between Gainesville and Omaha, Neb., where the University of Florida baseball team has been competing for its first national championship.
Even with history on the line, fans — at least ones from the state of Florida — have mostly bided their time, waiting to commit to the long and costly trek to the Midwest until the team reached the championship series in the NCAA tournament.
“A lot of fans know the drill,” said Mark Gajda, UF’s assistant athletics director for ticket operations. The drill: If the team won Friday, it would be two wins from the national title.
The Gators took care of the first part with a 6-4 win against Vanderbilt on Friday, and the orange-and-blue faithful are expected to make the journey, with the best-of-three championship series set to begin Monday against either South Carolina or Virginia.
Right after the last out Friday, Ann Edwards called up her travel agent to book her trip.
“We are going to Omaha,” she exclaimed. “That was on my bucket list for my life, and now I’m crossing one off.”
Edwards, who is retired from Shands at the University of Florida and now works at North Florida Regional Medical Center, said she was in Arizona in 2006 when the football team won its second national championship and was in Miami in 1994 for the Elite Eight when the men’s basketball team secured its first trip to the Final Four.
While she and other Gators cried in exuberance at the since-demolished Miami Arena, she said she is more excited about what she predicts will be a sweep for the baseball team.
She and her husband, Mark Edwards, have season tickets for UF baseball, basketball and football games, but she said they cherish the social component of baseball. They can talk with friends and read The New Yorker between home runs and double plays.
“This is probably the most excited I’ve ever been. I was excited about football, but this is it. This is the biggie,” Ann Edwards said, admitting she and her husband danced around the house after Friday’s win. “The dog thinks we’re nuts, but that’s OK.”
UF’s ticket sales for the College World Series, which started June 18 in Omaha, so far have been good but not great, Gajda said. Most of the university’s allotment of 700 tickets has been sold to fans and alumni who live a short drive — at least relative to Gainesville — from TD Ameritrade Park.
The only time UF’s baseball team made it this far in the tournament was in 2005, when it was swept by the University of Texas in the championship series.
That year, fans waited until they knew their team was in the finals before booking hotels and flights and buying tickets, and Gajda predicted that will happen again.
Andy Bailey, the president of Luxury Travel Institute Inc. and the Edwards’ travel agent, is selling air, hotel and ticket packages for fans going to the series.
Before Friday’s win, there had been a good amount of interest in traveling to the College World Series, but some were waiting on Friday’s result before booking, Bailey said.
He said he was getting calls about making the trip from Florida, Nebraska, Dallas and north Texas.
“They really are everywhere,” he said of Gator fans.
Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.