Cal baseball is alive and well in Omaha’s new yard

Granite Bay graduate Knapp and his Golden Bears teammates ready for College World Series
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Did Andrew Knapp envision playing in the College World Series when he signed a national letter of intent with Cal?

He most certainly did. This is not one of those “I-would-have-said-you’re-crazy” moments.

“It’s always in the back of your mind when you commit to the school that you make that your ultimate goal,” said the 2010 Granite Bay High School graduate, who will take the field with the Golden Bears at 11 a.m. Sunday for their opener against top-ranked Virginia at the new home of the College World Series — TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. “I remember (while) getting recruited I was going to do everything I could to get here to Omaha, the promised land. Our team, we made it our goal to get here.”

And here they are, the college baseball program that is gunning for an NCAA championship two months after its scheduled execution at the hands of Cal’s budget axe was overturned.

Last fall, the university announced that baseball and three other sports would be eliminated. A fundraising drive that produced $9 million in commitments moved school officials to keep baseball alive.

Knapp said the drive showed people care about Cal baseball.

“We had support from the school and all the family members that helped bring it back,” he said. “It gave us strength to keep pushing on and reach our ultimate goal of making it to Omaha. Bringing it back at Cal has given us a new life, and we’re just so thankful.”

So thankful the Bears went out and played their way onto college baseball’s grandest stage in Nebraska.

That stage is a new 24,000-seat yard, located just a few minutes from Rosenblatt Stadium, the site of the College World Series for 61 years. Knapp said the team visited the new park Wednesday.

“It’s really nice. It smells new. That’s when it became real,” he said. “When you’re flying over, you don’t know what to expect. When you get to that stadium and walk inside, it all becomes real. It’s just incredible. I can’t imagine what it’s going to look like filled.”

Knapp said his freshman year of college is the best he could have imagined. He plays behind Chadd Krist, whom he describes as one of the best catchers in the nation. Krist has started all 58 games for Cal. Knapp just wants to get a shot to play in front of his parents, Julie and Mike, and brother Aaron, who will be a junior at Granite Bay.

“I really hope so,” Knapp said. “I want to show what I can do. I can help this team.”

Win or lose, the Bears will play either Texas A&M or defending champion South Carolina on Tuesday.