Dr. Riser's Diary: Watching His Oldest Son, Matt and Tulane in Omaha
Day 1: Thursday
My leg hurts from pinching myself. After driving 1100 miles in 21 hours overnight, Jake and I made it to Omaha. Sharon and Alex,
the smarter ones, are flying. As we walked to the opening ceremonies on Thursday night, there was a carnival-like atmosphere as
the stands were everywhere selling College World Series memorabilia. The road was lined with fans, the majority of which seemed
to me to be young ball player age. As we got closer, Rosenblatt Stadium rose up bigger and bigger over our heads and a flood of
memories of Little League days and
childhood dreams streamed through my mind.
I thought about a special group of kids from Picayune, Mississippi, that had won the Mississippi Little League Championship and
came so close to making the Little League World Series. I thought about a special group of coaches that those kids had who had
taught them to be selfless and to be team players. Many of that same group went on the win a Mississippi High School State
Championship with the help of some other great kids and another set of great coaches and they wound up ranked #4 in the nation
that year (2002). I thought about Matthew’s summer AAU team and how again he was blessed with a special coach and placed
6th in the nation in the Junior Olympics. I thought about another group of special kids and coaches at PRCC who twice were
ranked #1 in the nation. Had it not been for Coach Jay Artigues and those special people, Matthew would not be on the #1
ranked college team in nation. Matthew had been in the right place at the right time, but I realize without hard work and dedication,
he could not have taken advantage
of the situation and opportunity that he has.
When we sat at the opening ceremonies at Rosenblatt Stadium Thursday night, we watch and observed how beautiful and big the
stadium is. It seats 24,000 people. I looked around and saw eight teams there experiencing childhood dreams come true, their
parents watching them. When they presented the Tulane team and I watched Matthew step foot on the field at the College World
Series, tears came to my eyes as I
just thought how his dream was coming true.
Day 2: Friday
A slow day and a time for the team to practice. Coach Rick Jones kept tradition by taking a chance to hit Matthew more times
than Matthew was able to bunt during bunt practice. You see, Jones says it is good luck when he hits Matthew. After practice,
like many times before, I had to play team doctor for one day as I have done so many times through the years. I subbed for the
real team doctor who was not scheduled
to arrive until Saturday.
Day 3: Saturday (Game Day vs Oregon State)
The atmosphere was electric. It is hard to describe how exciting it is. They seated all the family members of the players together.
That was special. Throughout most of the game, Tulane was down once again, and as the story has been so many times this
season, somebody steps up. Bogusevic saves the game with an unbelievable catch in right center field. Madden comes off the
bench to drive in two runs and give us the lead. Throughout the previous 65 games, it seems to always be this way with this
team. Oh yea, It was a hot day and I was sunburned. When Matthew goes out on the field, I was glad, extremely glad, I had
my sunglasses on. Not only is he at the College World Series, he is playing in it. The tears would not stop. It was a moment
to cherish. Matthew had caught two
fly balls, including the one to end the game and Tulane won 3-1.
No big celebration with the win. These guys are very business like, very focused. They stuck around to watch Texas/Baylor
game; the main thing was to try and steal their signs (signals) for the game on Monday night. They are here for one reason:
To win it all.
Day 4: Sunday (Father’s Day)
What more could I ask for; Father’s Day at the College World Series with my three sons: Matthew, Alex, and Jacob. Matthew
came by the room and woke me up to wish me a happy Father’s Day before heading off to practice. It was a good start to
Father’s Day. Most of the parents spent the day reading all the articles on ESPN.COM and BaseballAmerica.com. It was
really fun to read about things we had experienced and reading about the rest of the kids on the team. ESPN had a reporter,
Pat Forde, embedded with the team since arriving in Omaha, has written some very good articles, especially the one about
The team, their parents, and about 300 fans were treated to a steak-fry, riverboat cruise on the Missouri River. It has been
nice getting to know the parents better over the last four days and sharing a common bond watching our kids live out a
What Matthew didn’t tell me was that they had posted player’s memories on the Tulane baseball site
Matthew told the writer the following:
There hasn't been just one moment with my father and baseball. He's been by my side through almost every single game,
the good and the bad. We've had cries of sadness and tears of joy through many games. Regardless of the situation, we've
had many favorite moments.
As I read this, it made me remember that as parents, being there when they hit a homerun or make a great play, was easy because
they really didn’t need a friend when times are good because they have all the friends in the world. But when the kid makes a
mistake or a bad play, they are all alone and need a parent to be there. I remember the first time it happened to Matthew. He was
9 years old at PYAA and he came to bat with the tying run at 3rd base with two outs. He didn’t get it done as he struck out and
his team lost the game. After the game, just he and I were walking to the car and I never said a word. I just let him cry and cry
and finally I said, “It hurts
doesn’t it? Just remember that.”
I recalled that moment when I thought about what Matthew had said on the Tulane site.
It again illustrated all the times when the importance of parents needing to be there when it doesn’t always go well. All in all, it
was a nice day; a very nice Father’s Day, one that in my wildest dreams I could never imagine being as special as it has turned
out to be.
Day 5: Monday (Game Day vs Texas)
Can we just forget this day? No? Okay. Then here goes….
The day starting very early as a lot of the parents didn’t sleep much and were mingling in the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza lobby
around 6:30am. We parents all have come to the conclusion that it is our job to worry and the players job to play. We just hung
around anxiously awaiting the game against Texas. A lot of time was spent reading Pat Forde’s article on ESPN.com about the
superstitions, make that rituals,
of this Tulane team and the “MoJo that the Green Wave has working.”
We finally head to the ballpark about 3 hours before the game. We went to the Tulane Alumni tent, where if you were a Tulane
fan or parent, you were treated to free food and soft drinks just outside the stadium. In addition, we were able to watch the Oregon
State / Baylor game on the large screen televisions positioned in the tent with Baylor winning in extra innings. We finally made our
way into Rosenblatt Stadium worried what our outcome would be against a very good Texas team. We took a group picture with
all the parents in our seats. When I saw all the Texas hats, I thought about Carey Meitzler. Years ago, we went to the Little League
Regional tournament in Florida with him and his boys and my youngest son Jacob to watch Alex play. I remember Jacob wearing a
University of Texas baseball cap just about everywhere we went and Carey constantly picking at Jacob saying ‘Hook’ em Horns’.
Today, I called Carey just before the game and he spoke with Jacob and told him that ‘he had better not be wearing that stupid
Texas cap tonight’. He didn’t
have the cap, but it brought back a lot of memories.
Pat Forde of ESPN.com just walked by me in the lobby and I thanked him for the great stories and told him I wasn’t sure about
the “hex” Coach Jones attached to him. You see, Coach Jones asked Pat to leave the dugout late in the Oregon State game
because he thought Pat was possibly a “jinx”. When Tulane rallied for the win, Pat was labeled a “jinx” since things got better
after he departed the dugout.
After reading all about the ‘rituals’, I realized that I was guilty as well. You see, I am wearing all five armbands from the last five
wins. So maybe there is something
to it after all.
Tonight’s game was full of heartbreak watching Texas play one of their best games and Tulane not playing so well. Texas handed
us our first loss with a 5-0 shutout. They have great pitching and played a flawless defensive game. Talking with Matthew after
the game, I realized where we are with the loss. Matthew said they are “just ready to play ball and it’s like starting over at this
point”. When they arrived, they could win five straight games to become the national champions, and now, they still have to win
five straight games by beating Baylor tomorrow, then beating Texas twice, and then two more wins against the winner of the other
bracket. The kids seemed to be very positive, though disappointed with the loss. They realize they have a lot of good pitching left.
I guess we need to get our Mojo going
again. It starts all over tomorrow.
Day 6: Tuesday (Game Day vs Baylor)
Bummer. There was only one thing on everyone’s mind today: Baseball. The team had been treated like royalty; they even rolled
out a red carpet for them as they loaded the bus to go to the stadium, but the players were all business. I talked with a reporter
from The Tulanian before we left for the field. We talked about the team parents and how we have grown very close. We talked
about the team players and what a team player is. A team player is one who plays selflessly and plays to his maximum potential,
and most importantly makes those around
him play better. This Tulane team has a lot of team players.
The game started out well. I was taking pictures because the wavebaseball.com photographer, Dave, was not here today. We built
a 7-0 lead going into the 7th inning, and unbelievably, Baylor came back. Matthew went into the game in the 7th inning and I went
to the third base side of the field to take pictures and got a really bad feeling when my camera broke. So I headed back to our first
base side of the field where I finished watching the game with Alex and Jacob. In case you don’t know, we lost in the bottom of the
9th inning. With one out and bases loaded, a ground ball to second base for a potential double play, we were leading by one run,
but the throw to first base was wide and they won by one run. Jacob said he has never felt such a range of emotions in such a short
time in seconds; from jubilation to horror and disbelief. Everyone kept replaying the final play over and over in their head. It shouldn’t
have come down to that one play, but it did. I felt bad for the whole team, but especially Joe (Holland), the second baseman who
threw wide, and his parents. Joe’s
dad is a doctor in Houston and a super person.
When Joe walked out of the dugout, I hugged him and told him he was champion and always will be. I realized I was describing most
of the players on this team and thought
if our future is in the hands of young people like this, we’re in good
When Matthew came out of the dugout, we hugged and there wasn’t a lot to say. He knows we love him; he knows we’re proud of him.
All I could say was “it hurt”.
Today was another first for this year. It was the first Tulane loss when Matthew was in the game. Before tonight, they were undefeated
when Matthew played.
I also realized that I was wrong. I had kept saying it was every baseball player’s dream as a kid to play in the College World Series.
I was wrong because it is their dream to win a College World Series and I could see the pain on these kids’ faces. They had set their
goals high, which is okay as long
as they appreciate what they accomplished even though they didn’t reach
Well, Tulane is done now and headed home, but alas, I am not done. I have two more kids to go. With Alex in the NABF World Series
with the Jackson 96ers and Jacob in the Simply The Best World Series with the Gulf Coast Sharks, their brother Matthew has set a fine
example for them.
I would like to thank Rob Sigler and Carey Meitzler for their help with this diary. Goodbye from Omaha. We lost. It hurts. We’ll be back.