Hotard: Omaha still second home for LSU baseball

When a team is eliminated from the College World Series, the venders outside TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., mark down souvenir T-shirts and caps of said team 50 percent.

So by Tuesday evening, you could find all the LSU gear you wanted for half price.

That certainly came as little consolation for the fans from Louisiana who made the trek to college baseball’s promised land confident their Tigers could make a run at the school’s seventh national championship.

The only people as disappointed by LSU’s 0-2 showing in the CWS were probably the owners of restaurants, bars, hotels and the like, who watched the droves of purple and gold fans flood their places of business and provide an extra boost to the Omaha economy.

No one treats the CWS like LSU fans, whose passion for college baseball — and, in general, a good time — remains unmatched.

LSU fans bring a college football-like vibe to college baseball’s signature event, turning the streets of downtown Omaha into something that resembles a tailgate party.

No wonder many of the Omaha locals have adopted LSU as their favorite non-Nebraska team.

They love how many LSU fans descend upon their city when the Tigers reach the CWS. They love even more how many show up even when the Tigers do not.

A waitress at Upstream Brewery on South 11th Street said she had spent the previous two weekends cheering on the Tigers from afar. Strangers in the streets stopped CWS-goers wearing purple and gold to wish them well.

With LSU back for the first time in four years, it was like Omaha was saying hello to an old friend.

The LSU-Omaha love affair blossomed during college baseball’s long-ball era.

Coach Skip Bertman popularized “Gorilla Ball” in the 1990s, bringing teams to old Rosenblatt Stadium that swung for the fences. It spurred LSU to the first five of its six national titles.

It also made the Tigers a joy to follow, capturing the imagination of Rosenblatt regulars.

This year marked the start of something new.

Many fans of LSU baseball were getting their first up-close look at 3-year-old TD Ameritrade, and they left lamenting the new park’s spacious dimensions and its affinity for sacrifice bunts.

But they must have noticed little difference in the way they were treated.

They needed only to visit their old stomping grounds, Barrett’s Barleycorn, the Leavenworth Street pub that transforms into a haven for all things LSU when the Tigers come to town.

Or take a walk through Old Market and behold the throngs of purple and gold.

When the Tigers fell to North Carolina in Tuesday’s elimination round, it marked just the fourth time in 16 appearances they left the CWS without a win.

It also cut short a season in which LSU won 57 games, matching the school record for victories in a season.

Surely, the team and its fans weren’t the only ones sad to see it end.