The gloves have been thrown. The dog pile has happened. The fireworks have lit up the Omaha sky. The trophy has been kissed. The foghorn has echoed down West End. Tim Corbin has hugged all his players. We now find ourselves liking every Facebook status we can, changing our profile pictures, texting our friends and former classmates, and soaking it all in.
Because admit it. You were thinking it too. You were afraid. You thought until the very end, until Ravenelle’s final strikeout that somehow, some way… the joy would be stripped away. Maybe it’s because of the U.S. – Portugal game. But it’s most likely because of the heartbreaks.
As Vanderbilt fans, we are a proud people. We have learned to never give up on our athletes, our coaches, our teams, and our university through thick and thin, through victories, program rebuilding processes, and heartbreaks.
We’ve been through too many of them. Bad breaks, bad bounces, and bad calls. During Vanderbilt’s run to the National Title, so many friends I watched so many games with recalled them. Earl Bennett in The Swamp. “The No-Call Walk” versus Georgetown in the Sweet 16. Tim Corbin’s excellent teams just never quite going all the way.
We were even always proud of our first NCAA National Championship for our Women’s Bowling team in 2007. But Karl Ravech always derisively referred to it, as did other fan bases. We were proud while others giggled. But that’s just being Vanderbilt. We stand by our players and our teams. We believe even as we guard our hearts. Because that’s what we do.
At Vanderbilt, unlike most other SEC schools, our athletes aren’t idols – they are often our friends. You sit next to them in class and at lunch and at other sporting events. You play in David Price’s charity golf event. Pedro Alvarez recognizes you in the Green Hills parking lot when he’s back in town during the off-season. You give a bro nod to Jay Cutler at Dan McGuinness on a Friday night before he’s starting an NFL game on Sunday.
This is clear in how our alumni have interacted with the fan base and the team on this Championship run. Brandt Snedeker, David Price, and Sonny Gray have been tweeting non-stop. Other alumni tweeted out pictures of watching the College World Series games in the clubhouse and on the big jumbo tron during rail delays.
ESPN loves their College World Series tagline about “History happens here.” But the announcers loved talking about Texas history and UVA/ACC history. They never really believed in Vanderbilt either.
But that was fine. Because even though we feared another heartbreak, we took nothing for granted. It seemed that we were proposing another Vandy Boy for President in 2016 every other inning.
Tyler Beede – the ace pitcher we’ve come to expect from Tim Corbin clubs.
Walker Buehler’s huge performance earlier in the series, with ice running through his veins.
Carson Fulmer utilizing all his uncontrollable emotion to lead the team and give everything he had through tears to lead the team in Game 3.
Ro Coleman continually proving that his heart and speed is infinitely bigger than his strike zone.
Bryan Reynolds with THAT CATCH against Stanford and then AGAIN in Omaha.
Zander Wiel catching throws at first that normal humans could not.
Rhett Wiseman always making the play on offense or defense when no one else seemed to, when it was needed most.
Dansby Swanson with hit-after-hit, steal after steal, run-after-run, play-after-play. He was the Most Outstanding Player and the most dependable, inning in and inning out.
Hayden Stone with that slider and getting the strikeouts and stopping the bleeding when it mattered most, whether against Texas or UVA.
Adam Ravenelle bringing the heat and closing out games when all of our hearts had already stopped beating.
Tyler Campbell, stepping up with very little playing time and with no expectation. But he hit and hustled us into the finals and helped give us the winning RBIs in Game 1 of those Finals.
And redemption, thy name is Johnny Norwood. Winning the championship for a team who mastered small ball by going yard at the field where so few could hit the home run. Like all us dreamed of in the sandlot, Norwood hit the game-winning home run to win the College World Series.
But it wasn’t a dream. It was the best, because it was real, it was history, and it was completely Vanderbilt’s. Choked up after the game, Tim Corbin said, “A lot of things [are] happening at the same time. […] I’m just so proud of how they matured over 72 games. Really happy for the university and Nashville. Every coach, you immerse yourself in the kids and they become more than baseball players. They become your sons. It’s a nice feeling. It’s good to watch them celebrate achievements.”
As humble as he has always been. As strong of a leader and coach and molder of young men as he has always been.
As for Commodore Nation, we’re chanting. We’re anchoring down. We’re ordering championship apparel.
Vanderbilt Baseball. National Champions.
We’re celebrating. We’re partying. We’re proud.
This is something that we could get used to.