I can’t remember life without Vandy sports. Honestly I can’t. From the age of 4, maybe earlier, I started going to Vanderbilt basketball and football games. And when I was 5 years old I went to my first Vanderbilt bowl game, the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. I haven’t missed a bowl game in my lifetime (which up until the last several years was fairly easy to achieve). Naturally, when it was time to go “off” to college, I chose to go a few miles down West End to my beloved Vanderbilt. During that time, I had to endure some fairly “tough” seasons as a sports fan but like most Vandy faithful, nothing could shake my spirit.
Thankfully since my graduation Vanderbilt made a drastic shift in thinking and decided to become excellent in athletics. It is safe to say that they are moving in the right direction.
Part of that decision to become excellent involved hiring and retaining Tim Corbin. My first son was born right about the time that he was hired. And for some reason my son has loved baseball since he was 4 years old. As any parent can attest, we fall in love with things our children love. In his lifetime, Vanderbilt Baseball has been pretty easy to love. Not only do we have season tickets, my eldest son has been a bat boy for the last 2 years. So it is not an exaggeration to say that we remain “all in” with Vandy and specifically the 2014 baseball team.
Back to Omaha… When Vanderbilt reached the final series, my family’s attendance wasn’t optional. When your team is on the brink of a National Championship is not the time the time to re-think your allegiance! So it was set, the Harmers were going to Omaha for games 2 and 3 of the CWS finals. And while our whole family had “too much” going on, we anchored down and headed to Omaha. And what a wonderful decision we made. Game 3 was the best baseball game I have ever seen live or otherwise and easily the most electric sporting event that I have attended. To put it in perspective; my youngest son (seven), who can’t sit still long enough to finish a sentence, sat on the edge of his seat for the entire game and cheered every pitch, every play for nearly 4 hours! And he wasn’t alone. We were among generations of alumnae and fans who were all doing the same thing. And no one stopped watching, no one stopped cheering. There were hugs and high-fives every few seconds for 4 hours. Every time we got out of a jamb, made a big play, or simply got a routine out; the energy level climbed.
And then it happened… John Norwood turned on a 97 mph fastball that was high and inside to complete one of the biggest plays in the history of Vanderbilt Athletics, only the third home-run of the 2014 CWS, and Vandy’s first homer since May! But before we had gotten through all of our hugging and high-fives, Virginia had the bases loaded with 1 out. Talk about tension, energy, excitement, you name it we had it. But like they had done for the entire tournament, Vandy stayed focused on their mission and got out of the inning. Now they we were 3 outs away from history! Before I knew it fireworks were flying and black and gold glitter was being pumped to the sky by glitter machines that are reserved only for Champions. That’s right! Black and gold glitter was being pumped into the air to honor our National Championship winning baseball team. I still can’t close my eyes without seeing that scene play out. The celebration lasted ‘til nearly midnight. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
So as my wife and I began our trip home in the dark hours of the morning, shortly after the game, with the kids sleeping comfortably behind us; I quietly asked her what she had planned for my birthday that day. We both laughed. I can’t imagine a better birthday present for an old die-hard Vandy fan like me!
The Wills Company co-owners Wendell Harmer and Ridley Wills, each proud alums of the finalists in the 2014 College World Series: Vanderbilt and University of Virginia, put a little BET on the final championship game.
Click the picture to watch the payoff.