Dalton Guthrie glanced over his left shoulder at the series of banners that had been strung up on the fence beyond the left field wall.
There, every strikeout Florida’s pitchers had recorded in the 2017 College World Series was displayed with a “K” (or a backward one) signifying a UF strikeout.
There were 62 of them, each one seemingly more important than the previous one.
“Is that Omaha?” asked the Gator junior shortstop. “I’m glad they’re on our team. They’re incredible. They’re insane.”
Florida’s pitchers were the story of Florida’s first-ever national championship and three of them — Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Michael Byrne — led the parade out of an inflatable Gator head onto the field at McKethan Stadium on Wednesday for the celebration of that title. Faedo carried the national championship trophy, Singer and Byrne held signs that proclaimed UF as the king of college baseball.
As a crowd of about 2,500 watched and cheered, the celebration that carried deep into the Omaha night and morning continued into a steamy Gainesville afternoon.
Several of the players wore sunglasses on a cloudy day, as much to hide eyes worn out from a lack of sleep as anything.
“I went to bed at 9:30 a.m.,” Guthrie said. “And our plane left at 10. And I had to pack. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Sometimes sleep deprivation is a good thing.
“I didn’t get much,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “You get back to the hotel and get the kids to sleep and you’re up watching video. So not a lot of sleep these two weeks.
“But that’s OK. I’ll do extra laundry every year.”
On the field, the Gators sat for their first baseball celebration in white folding chairs as emcee Jeff Cardozo, the former UF pitcher and current broadcaster, interviewed Singer, Faedo, Deacon Liput and Mike Rivera before finishing up with O’Sullivan. Video highlights played on the scoreboard as the crowd cheered as if they were seeing them for the first time.
Faedo and Rivera both received standing ovations when they were introduced. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Liput, who turned 21 on Tuesday.
Mostly, every one of the players tried to let a magical run sink in.
“It’s pretty surreal,” said Austin Langworthy, the freshman from Williston. “I grew up a Gator fan and saw them come really close to winning a championship.
“To experience it in my freshman year, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
O’Sullivan said it would probably be the weekend before he would feel the reality of what just happened.
“I don’t feel any different,” said the UF coach. “I’m still numb about the whole thing. I remember talking to (former UF basketball coach) Billy Donovan and he said you think everything is going to change and it really doesn’t.
“You get back to work. He was spot on, to be honest. Nothing’s changed. I’ve got recruits in here, exit meetings, scholarships to work on. It was a great accomplishment and I’m just happy for the players. I knew we were going to win one. I just didn’t know when.”
The answer was Tuesday night.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.