June 5, 2000
Brett Sowell is the online marketing manager for ClemsonTigers.com and a former Assistant Sports Information Director at Clemson. In 1996, as a graduate assistant in sports information, he traveled with Clemson to the College World Series. Over the next few days he will share some of his experiences from that exciting trip.
As a kid growing up my father exposed me to all the major sports, football, basketball and of course baseball. With the passing of time I grew to have a great appreciation for college football and basketball, but college baseball was another story. I had grown up a big fan of minor league baseball and hoped one day to own a team, but I never really followed college baseball.
In 1996, I was lucky enough to make it to the pinnacle of college baseball. I went to Omaha for the College World Series.
I wouldn’t say that I am a bigger college baseball fan today than I was before I went, but I definitely understand the significance of making the trek to the country’s heartland to play in Rosenblatt Stadium.
Unfortunately, I didn’t go out there to play. Anyone who has seen me throw a baseball will attest to why I never made it past a pathetic little league career that included one extra base hit, a triple in the final game of the season. That is why I can’t rank the 1996 Omaha trip as my number one sports experience of all-time.
My number one experience was the NIT Finals trip in 1999 with Larry Shyatt’s team. The difference is, I may not be able to throw a baseball, but I can shoot a basketball. So shooting NBA three-pointers in the world’s most famous sports venue, the Madison Square Garden, was pretty fun.
Nonetheless, I really can’t see myself having another experience later in life that would unseat Omaha from the number-two spot on my personal list.
It could be the fact that I really didn’t have any expectations for the trip. A lot of times expectations can lead to let downs. This trip was not a let down.
The time in Omaha was one of the most exciting times for Clemson baseball. The Tigers won two games, something no Clemson team had ever done in the CWS. A streak of eight straight losses in the CWS came to an end.
Clemson had three of the country’s top players in Kris Benson, Billy Koch and Matthew LeCroy. Benson and Koch would be drafted while we were on the trip, Benson going number-one in the draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Billy Koch number-four to the Toronto Blue Jays. All three players would go on to represent the United States in Atlanta later in the summer in the Olympics.
The games were just as exciting. Clemson had a 10-inning win over Oklahoma State and a 14-13 come-from-behind-win over No. 1 ranked Alabama.
Over the next few days, I hope to share with you some of my more memorable experiences from that trip.
Hopefully the 2000 experience in Omaha for the Tigers will be even more exciting and hopefully they will cap this season off with a National Championship.
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