June 9, 2000
by Brett Sowell
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.
1996 College World Series Memories Tigers Were On Omaha’s Doorstep In 1999
The 1996 College World Series was an exciting time to be in Omaha.
That season was the 50th anniversary of the CWS. Rosenblatt Stadium had undergone renovations, which included a new 14,000 square foot press box. The stadium needed a new press box to handle the more than 450 media representatives covering the event that year.
For our players and coaches it was in fact the College World Series, but for me it was not.
With over 450 members of the media present and two of the hottest prospects in all of baseball on the team I represented, the week turned out to be the Media World Series.
Pitcher Kris Benson entered the CWS with a 14-0 record. Over the course of that season he became the hottest prospect in baseball. He graced the cover of Baseball America magazine’s Major League Draft preview. While we were in Omaha, the magazine named him their National Player of the Year. One of many press conferences we attended that week.
Benson was tabbed to be the first pick of the draft, but teammate Billy Koch was right behind him. Although Koch’s numbers weren’t as impressive as Benson, Koch was known as one of the hardest throwing prospects around. Throughout that season it was entertaining to watch all of the pro scout’s radar guns at Tiger Field (now Doug Kingsmore Stadium) when Koch pitched.
The draft was scheduled during the week of the CWS, so needless to say, the interview requests for both players were endless. From coast-to-coast I received phone calls wanting to talk with the two players, that’s not to mention the requests from the media in Omaha.
I couldn’t leave my hotel room without returning to find the message light blinking on the phone. Heck, I couldn’t even get a soda from down the hall without missing a call.
It was a very special time to be associated with Clemson baseball. There is a quote current SID graduate assistant Brian Hennessy stated that summed up the week best for me. Hennessy was my right hand man on the trip and is making his second trip to Omaha this season.
I was driving us back from Rosenblatt Stadium and it was late, so I was ready to get back to the team hotel for some R & R. Hennessy was in the passenger’s seat beside me, Hennessy’s father, Benson and Koch were in the back seat of our minivan rental.
The team bus had long since left the stadium, Benson and Koch were with us because they had stayed behind to talk with the media about being the number one and number four picks of the Major League draft that day.
As we buzzed along the interstate on that Omaha summer night, Hennessy looked at me and said, “do you ever think about the fact that you are driving with two million dollars in this van.” I said, “No.” I hadn’t really thought about it up until that point, but I did ease off the gas pedal a little bit.
In the days ahead check out ClemsonTigers.com as I remember what it was like working with Clemson Baseball in the days leading up to and the day of the 1996 Major League draft.
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