Sports

College World Series: A dream come true

Playing in front of 26,000 people at the College World Series was always a huge dream of mine growing up.

It just seemed like the coolest thing — Omaha, Neb., Rosenblatt Stadium, the smack of aluminum bats and the pride and passion college teams exude. Needless to say, I never reached that goal. In fact, I didn’t even come close.

During my Division I baseball career at Gonzaga University, a trip to the College World Series just wasn’t in the cards — a third-place finish in the six-team Pac-10 Northern Division didn’t make the postseason cut back in 1995.

So when the Oregon State Beavers and Arizona State Sun Devils stamped their tickets to the 2005 College World Series, which concluded last weekend, it held a little more meaning for me. It meant Federal Way’s own — OSU third baseman Shea McFeely and ASU right-handed pitcher Tony Barnette — would get the opportunity of playing on the perfectly-manicured grass at Rosenblatt Stadium. McFeely is a Federal Way High School grad and Barnette attended Jefferson. Both graduated in 2002 and just completed their junior seasons at their respective schools.

“On the first day (of the CWS), all the teams practiced at the stadium and Oregon State practiced after us,” Barnette said. “So I got to talk with Shea and we said, ‘Can you believe this? This is absolutely crazy. Two guys from Federal Way in the College World Series.’”

The south King County connection didn’t end there. Oregon State assistant coach Dan Spencer is the former head man at Green River Community College, where he coached me for two seasons in 1992 and ‘93.

And, from what it sounds like from those guys, the College World Series experience was everything I had dreamed about.

“It was just unbelievable,” Barnette said. “We got treated like celebrities. Kids were running up to me all the time asking for autographs. There were girls who would come up to me and ask for pictures.”

A far cry from when McFeely and Barnette first started playing against each other on the Federal Way American Little League field at Sacajawea Middle School as pre-teens.

“(The Omaha Police Department) even gave us an escort to the field for our games,” Barnette said. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’”

Their College World Series’, however, didn’t turn out perfectly on the scoreboard, especially for McFeely and Spencer’s Oregon State team.

The Beavers entered the touranment as the second-ranked team in the nation with a 46-10 record. Oregon State set a school record for wins in a season and won the Pacific-10 championship, the NCAA Corvallis Regional and the NCAA Corvallis Super Regional before the College World Series.

But things turned sour in Omaha. Oregon State dropped their first two games at the double-elimination, eight-team World Series. No. 1-ranked Tulane tallied two runs in the seventh inning to beat the Beavers, 3-1, in the CWS opener June 18 and Baylor bounced OSU in extra innings two days later, 4-3. McFeely, who hit .319 with five home runs and 41 RBIs in the regular season, finished 2-for-7 with one run and an RBI.

Things went a little bit better for Arizona State, who rolled into Omaha with the least victories of any of the qualifying teams (39). The Sun Devils fell one game short of qualifying for the championship with a 6-3 loss to Florida, who eventually lost to Texas in the title series.

Barnette threw only one inning — a six-pitch, no-hit gem June 23 against Florida — during the College World Series. But he did allow himself the opportunity to soak in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Barnette said about pitching in the CWS. “I tried to think about it as being just another ball game. I knew I was here for a reason and I know I can pitch. When I got out on the mound, (the nerves) all kind of went away. But when you see 26,000 people in the crowd, you say ‘Holy jeez, there’s a lot of people here.’

“It was a dream come true.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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