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CWS newcomers find Omaha to their liking.

Byline: OSU NOTEBOOK By Bob Clark The Register-Guard

OMAHA, Neb. - For some Oregon State players, this is a third trip to the College World Series. Then there are the first-timers like freshman second baseman Joey Wong.

`It's a place you always thought you wanted to come to and as a player, it's even better,' Wong said Thursday at Rosenblatt Stadium, where OSU and the other seven teams were each given an hour to work out. `The guys have just been saying it will be the best time you'll have in college. So far, it's definitely been that.'

The Beavers don't play until Saturday, when they meet Cal State-Fullerton. OSU will practice this morning at a local high school, with the stadium tied up today by two first-round games.

While OSU coach Pat Casey made a case to the media that this was far from the same team that won the national title last season, there seemed to be a definite calm among the Beavers as they spoke with reporters and during their workout on the field.

`We're going to be playing a lot of kids who have never been here ... but I think our guys are energized by another big weekend,' Casey said. `They're excited. There's a comfort level for a couple of the guys, but I think the rest are pretty excited.'

Keeping it here

The topic of moving the College World Series out of Omaha is of continuing concern to the locals, who know that even after 57 years of hosting the event, there will be other suitors when the current contract with the NCAA ends in three years.

`That would be the most ridiculous thing in the world,' Rice coach Wayne Graham said of taking the event out of Omaha.

It seems certain that Rosenblatt Stadium will undergo some modernization if the event stays here, though Casey said `it's a great venue. This is the greatest athletic event on the face of the earth.'

Dave Keilitz, the executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, reminded reporters that `when coaches talk to their teams before the season, they talk of going to Omaha, not going to the College World Series,' and argued for the tournament staying put.

But will it?

Dennis Poppe of the NCAA, during a `state-of-the-game' news conference, said `we're looking at everything' in regards to the future of the College World Series.

Poppe said there are three options: a major renovation of Rosenblatt Stadium, which has been estimated to cost $26 million; building a new stadium in downtown Omaha, or considering other sites.

`That's not something we would consider for some time, but I can't say that we wouldn't some day,' Poppe said of the third option.

More scholarships?

The wide-ranging news conference on the status of the game included several topics.

More scholarships. Baseball is currently limited to 11.7, which can be divided up.

Keilitz called it a `big issue' with coaches to raise that limit to 13 or 14. Part of the argument for more aid is tied to baseball being the sport that is the lowest funded, in terms of scholarships, for the total number of players, he said.

Getting away from homefield advantage at regionals. The NCAA this year tested playing regionals at two facilities not on college campuses, in Round Rock, Texas, and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Larry Templeton, the Mississippi State director of athletics who is the chairman of the baseball committee, said he was awaiting financial reports on the neutral sites. He said he expected the experiment would continue, but he also likes the concept of rewarding teams for successful seasons by allowing them to host NCAA Tournament games.

The change in limits on the season. Starting in 2008, practice can't start before Feb. 1 and no games can be played before Feb. 22.

In theory, this will reduce the advantages of teams in drier and warmer climates. It may, however, force teams to play more games on weekdays rather than weekends to play the same number of games before the tournament starts. One suggestion: start the tournament later, and possibly even push the College World Series into July.

Praise for Pat

At the news conference for coaches, Arizona State coach Pat Murphy told reporters not to overlook the significance of Casey bringing the Beavers back again, for a third consecutive appearance.

Casey has done it mostly with players from Oregon, Murphy said. He's done it despite the disadvantages of being in the Northwest, with its weather issues. And it's certainly been no one-time fluke for the Beavers.

`People like Pat make this game what it is,' Murphy said. `What he's done is the greatest story in modern college baseball.'
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Title Annotation:Sports; Freshman Joey Wong enjoys his first trip to the college classic
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 15, 2007
Previous Article:A FAMILIAR RESUME.
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