I went to Omaha this weekend with Jake for the CWS and his son's 10u baseball tournament. It was awesome. We explain on the podcast that comes out tomorrow. But it's definitely worth a blog so here we go.
I love Omaha.
2021 Omaha with myself, Brandon Walker and Ben Mintz will simply never be topped. I knew that while it was happening and I knew it going into this weekend. You catch lightning in a bottle like that maybe one time in your entire life and you have to capitalize. From there new friendships and memories were born of immense quality and lasting impact. So needless to say I was excited to get out there again this year, if only for a brief moment.
This year's trip was much different. At present moment, I'm back in Roscoe Village on the north side of Chicago after a Thursday-Sunday morning voyage. A trip much different than last year's 13 days out of a single backpack with three pairs of boxers and a rogue attitude. This trip had plans. It had demands.
Truth be told the only reason I got to Omaha in the first place is because Cooper Arrieta had a 10u travel tournament that same weekend. Biggest youth baseball tournament outside of the one in Cooperstown - although the numbers stack up favorably. Jake was driving the family up in a Sprinter van and offered me a seat in the way back. A flight to Austin then 14 hours across Oklahoma and Kansas? Southwest was $350 round trip. I'd see him out there.
I called Mintzy. Just a week before a I plainly told him Omaha was off the table for me. I couldn't swing it with the new schedule and blah blah blah. Now we're chopping up new plans for Starting 9 and looking at schedules, and thus a new trip was born. Same location, slightly different crew, entirely new agenda: get Jake Arrieta to take a lap at the Saturday night Ole Miss game with Mintz.
Then we'd take it to the parking lot for a picturesque podcast in the backdrop of TD Ameritrade with Ole Miss fans buzzing and Tim Elko talking about his mustache and all that shit. Mintzy firing questions and making Jake hold the camera for him while Ole Miss fans swarmed the king of the South. I thought that would be a hilarious visual and great content for Starting 9. We all agreed. That was my ask for us on Saturday night.
Jake's ask was way more simple - he wanted me to come watch Cooper's team and see the boys play their doubleheader Saturday. For all the MLB content we've put out, Jake's favorite baseball team on earth is actually the Lake Travis 10u Outlaws. I can say that comfortably now too after having watched him guide the boys and work alongside the other guys on the coaching staff (shoutout Patrick and Rick obviously). Not to be a huge pussy but watching the kids play had a drastic impact on my morale. There's something about clean fundamental play from the kids that overwhelms you with pride and nostalgia. Like good for that shortstop for knowing how to take a cut off from left field to nail a guy at third. Good for second base for getting the force out on that hard ball up the middle. Countless examples.
Working back - it's now funny to think that I could have ever planned to get Jake and Mintzy together for the Ole Miss game. What preposterous suggestion on my part. Friday night for Texas ND was supposed to be a casual meet and greet for Starting 9 with Saturday being our full slate of content. And needless to say you would have thought Tom Emanski was patrolling the Omaha concourse circa 1994 that's how popular Jake was with the kids. Autographs here. Pictures there. Pure excitement everywhere all at once. Instantly you realize just how different it is having a couple of my ATO buddies run up and nut tap me during a selfie vs an entire team of 12u kids asking him how to hold a change up and if he misses baseball. Again not to be a pussy but these kind of realizations and exchanges are going to make the show better. It makes sense when I hear from Momma (Jake's wife) that I should absolutely tone down my swearing because there's so many young kids that want to hear him talk about baseball.
Sooooo do you still want to record Starting 9 in the parking lot tomorrow night?
The plans move around. Turns out the LT Outlaws smashed through their opening bracket and have a double header at 8am Saturday morning. I'm in the dugout handing out waters and keeping the helmets organized. I'm hustling foul ball duty and working 3rd level security on any potential parent-to-parent conflict. We're doing postgame interviews and scouting the Millard 10u program's starting pitching. I'm wearing every hat imaginable just to demonstrate my support to Jake. If it's important to you, it's important to me. That's good teamwork.
The Outlaws go on to smoke the competition behind fundamental defense, good pitching and timely two-out hitting. With it they move to the final 4 in a tournament of about 200 in the age group. Jake is buzzing through the roof telling me it feels as good as just about any big league game he's ever won. I'm at some random 10u baseball game in suburban Iowa just filling with emotion. It's so hard to explain just how cool it was to see that passion get passed on around the kids.
So we get done with the games and it's time to record the show. Again, the initial play was to mix Ole Miss on site and do some crazy shit in the tailgate lot but some times you have to pivot.
What if we just played high stakes blackjack, watched the Ole Miss game and then recorded the show in the sprinter van?
What a turn of events from 2021 Omaha when I played 0 minutes of blackjack because I had $47 to my name. And again, not the aesthetics I hoped for when we made the trip and hyped Starting 9 going to Omaha, but ultimately I think you guys will enjoy what we came up with.
To me it was about connecting in the field for a trip and finally cutting a show next to each other. It's such a different vibe - you could have put us in a dark storage closet at a Casey's General Store and it still would have turned out perfectly in my eyes. That needs to happen for us to grow the show in ways that far transcend who is hitting what batting average against fill-in-the-blank-starting-pitching. We'll find out if I'm wrong but we're pretty sure we're right.
If you've followed the new iteration of Starting 9, you should really like the show we're dropping tomorrow. If you've followed me, you'll get a much different look at Omaha than what you might have come to expect. Lots of Trust Exercises and vulnerable moments, and a pretty cool interview with one of the coach's on the 10u team. He explains how it wasn't exactly easy just adding him to a 10u coaching staff. The stories there are outstanding
I CALLED FOR A PITCH OUT
I really hope you guys enjoy what we came back with for Starting 9.
Mintzy and Castellani are out there now taking it to the streets and I have major major FOMO about being out there with them. I might head back for another game with how much FOMO I have. It's borderline indescribable.
As for now, please go subscribe to Starting 9. Each click counts and I want every single one of them:
PS - Great to see friends in Omaha from last year and growing that family. It really is such a special place to meet people and build relationships. My sales trainer and his sons met us out for pops. My close friend from Texas made the drive up again for video poker at the Ameristar. My ESPN buddy that helped us get on TV all last year was there for another deep philosophical conversation about the evolution of sports media and where life is going. I got integrated into a bachelor party with a bunch of dudes from Chicago. One of them is good buddies with Chuck Naso. Another lives in Austin and became quick friends with Jake and now they're working out next week at Jake's gym. Or something like that. Point is it's a special place where you can go and make incredible bonds with people. I highly recommend taking some time to add it to the bucket list.