I have never been to Omaha, but I imagine a baseball utopia smack in the heartland where for two weeks every June teams from the South and West Coast gather to eat grade-A steak and settle the one major college championship that is still relatively pure. I watch at least half-a-dozen games on television every year, and for some reason, it seems like the sun is always shining, the crowd is always tanned and the ninth inning goes on forever. Where else do aces who are future first-round draft picks beg their coaches for the chance to throw 100 pitches one day, another 100 two days later, and then close a game two days after that? Only in Omaha.
My ears have rung at Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, and Oregon, where I was once unable to hear the man who was sitting next to me and screaming in my ear. But from what I am told by connoisseurs of college football and crowd noise, you would think those famous gridirons are libraries compared to the madhouse appropriately known as Death Valley, where a Cajun roar comes off the bayou on Saturday nights in the fall that literally registers on the Richter scale. Whether it is the night sky, the white uniforms, or the potent concoctions served at tailgate parties, something makes LSU the loudest place in American sports.
Gallagher-Iba Arena hosted its first game in 1938, when
They play every summer:
The notion that spring training is a retreat back in time, to an era when tickets were cheap, ballparks were cozy, and players mingled with fans, is a lie. I reached this conclusion by spending March in places like Peoria, Ariz., and Lake Buena Vista, Fla. But I have not been to McKechnie Field, a Spanish-style gem in Bradenton that was built in 1923. It has hosted the Pirates for 40 years, and just put in lights last season. McKechnie is famous for its affordable tickets, friendly ushers and access to players. While other franchises hopscotch spring sites, it's no wonder the Pirates signed a contract to stick around Bradenton through 2037.