By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
When Louisville Mayor Will Hill decided to head to Omaha for the College World Series on Sunday afternoon, his wife Sarah only had one caveat.
“She looked at me and said this was one trip that I wasn’t going by myself” he said. “She said she was coming with me.”
The Hills left their three children (ages 7, 4 and 1) with relatives and made the nearly 14 hour trip to Nebraska, rolling into Omaha about 4 on Monday morning.
Fifth Circuit Court Judge Joey Loper, who serves Winston County, had to do a double take once he arrived on the scene of the College World Series.
“Everywhere I looked it was maroon and white,” He said. “It was like we were in Starkville for the Super Bulldog Weekend.”
Loper and the Hills are among several people with Winston County connections who made the long trip to Nebraska this week in order to see the Mississippi State University Bulldogs compete for its first National Championship in any sport.
MSU won its first game in the CWS 11 days ago, then won twice more without a loss to reach the best-of-three championship series against UCLA, which began on Monday.
Hill said that now he has made the long trip, he plans to stay through Wednesday in hopes the Bulldogs will win the National Championship. MSU lost the first game to UCLA 3-1 on Monday, and was set to take on the Bruins again on Tuesday night at 7. If the Bulldogs won that game, the two teams will meet in a deciding contest Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“I’ve seen a number of people from Louisville and Winston County already,” Hill said. “You will be in line and see somebody you know.”
He said that the way MSU has turned out for the championship Series — school officials estimated 8,000 State fans were in attendance on Monday — has been amazing.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Hill said. “I travel a lot with football and it’s like going to a college bowl game.”
Hal Overstreet of Louisville, who was able to attend the first three games State played in the CWS, said the camaraderie among MSU fans may be even stronger in Omaha than it is in Mississippi.
“If you see folks wearing Maroon around campus (at MSU) and anywhere in Mississippi you may not even say anything to them,” said Overstreet. “But here, you are kind of drawn together. We are all there for a common cause.”
Overstreet said MSU even made a few odd bedfellows during its stay at the CWS.
“Even the LSU fans have been very nice to us,” he said. “They told us they were supporting us and rooting for us to win. That’s one thing MSU and LSU has in common — a real love for baseball.”
“The atmosphere is just overwhelming,” said District 35 Rep. Joey Hood, who made the trip west with his wife Cynthia and sons Jonah, 4, and Owen, 2.
“We were at the game on Friday,” he said. “The great thing was being able to celebrate going to the championship with my son. Now I hope I get to celebrate a National Championship with him.”
The 1995 graduate of French Camp Academy, said he enjoyed following the sports teams when he was a student at Mississippi State. “I was a freshman when they made it to the Final Four (in basketball) and wasn’t able to go. I said if they ever got that far again, I was going to try and make it.”
Larry Gregory got a personal phone call on Monday that urged him to get on a plane and get to Omaha. It was from his son Bart, who is part of the MSU radio broadcast crew for the game.
“He called his Mother after Monday’s game and told her he had checked and that there was a flight leaving out at 9:35 Tuesday morning and I should be on it,” Gregory said. “I told him I couldn’t go Tuesday, but I would go on Thursday.”
He arrived in time for Friday’s game and now plans to stay as long as the Bulldogs are there.
“I am 61 years old and I have never seen anything like this,” he said. “It was like I laid down to take a nap in Omaha and woke up in Starkville. Just everywhere you look this place is packed with Mississippi State folks.”
Gregory bought a one-way plane ticket to Omaha, because his son told him if he got up there, he would get him back home.
“But, if that doesn’t’ work out I’m not worried,” Gregory said. “I’m sure there is somebody up here I can hitch a ride with back to Nanih Waiya.”