Omaha, NE (WDRB) - There's a sign above the tunnel leading to the dugouts at TD Ameritrade Park that reads "History Happens Here."
History hangs over the head of U of L outfielder Jeff Gardner. He recalls last year's appearance in the College World Series, when the Cardinals were two and done in the double elimination tournament."
The mindset of the team is a lot different than what it was last year," says Gardner. "Last year, it was 'Wow, we just took down Vandy, the number two overall seed at their place.' This year, the road here was a little bit different."
The road to Omaha ran directly through Louisville, with a win over rival Kentucky to advance to the Super Regional, and then two straight wins over Kennesaw State at Jim Patterson Stadium to earn a berth into the College World Series.
Gardner is dispensing advice to the first time travellers of this road.
"Let's not get too starstruck. Let's not get caught up in everything...but at the same time, you want to enjoy every minute of it," he said.
For Omaha-native Grant Kay, it's hard not to enjoy every minute of this experience. As a kid, Kay would ride his bike to the old Rosenblatt Stadium and watch games or visit the fan activities outside the stadium. He says he can't even begin to put a number on how many College World Series games he's seen growing up. Saturday, he will get his chance to be on the other side of the seats when he takes the field against Vanderbilt.
Kay says when he first stepped foot on the field, it was "outstanding."
"I've always been in the stands whether it was at Rosenblatt or even here. It's unbelievable being here and practicing. I can't wait to play (Saturday)," said Kay.
His father Greg was in the stands Friday afternoon watching practice. He says he's logged about 44 hours of drive time travelling back and forth to Louisville to watch the Cardinals in the post-season.He'll finally get the chance to make a much shorter drive from neighboring Blair, Nebraska to see his son suit up for Louisville.
"This is a dream come true for everybody, our family, the town of Omaha, and everything," said Greg Kay. As long as history doesn't repeat itself, that dream has a chance to lasting for some time.