LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Ask anyone about Louisville sports and most likely the first thing you’ll hear is basketball.
UofL's college basketball program is part of the national title conversation annually, and basketball season is practically a prolonged holiday around these parts. Louisville television markets always score inordinately high in basketball viewership nationwide, for events including, and excluding, the Cardinals.
But with NCAA baseball regionals coming to town, it’s an important time to bring up an assertion I’ve believed for quite some time: Louisville is a baseball town.
Now, before you basketball fans who love to show up late to the Yum Center and leave early get all up in arms, hear me out.
Yes, UofL basketball is virtually omnipresent. But the national pastime penetrates every facet of our city. The same school that plays at the Bucket has churned out some pretty remarkable baseball teams of late, including three College World Series appearances in the last decade.
UofL’s Jim Patterson Stadium has played host to eight regionals or super regionals on the Road to Omaha since 2007, and will do so once again this week.
Each successive post-season battle breaks the attendance record of its predecessor.
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Behind head coach Dan McDonnell, the Cardinals baseball team has ignited a young, new baseball fan base in the area. But these successes only build on the framework of baseball interest that was already in place.
Just look at that factory on Main Street, which has been providing the best bat in baseball to major leaguers since Honus Wagner in 1905. Kids in Louisville take field trips to the Slugger Museum almost every year. The smell of the white ash being turned and shaped is burned into our memories, and we all have six or seven of those mini bats in our homes or storage units.
Then there’s the minor league team, in the heart of downtown. The Louisville Bats, though they may be minor, are a major part of our sports landscape. And that baseball field has become a part of our skyline and our baseball world, welcoming crowds for every game, other sporting events, special shows, parties, proposals and hundreds of memories per nine innings.
Last week, Louisville played host to the ACC Tournament, and while the Cards’ result didn’t match their top seed, thousands still turned out each day to watch a league that brought five top-25 teams to this baseball-loving town.
And the baseball love isn't confined to Jefferson County; instead it serves as another vehicle through which we can celebrate our favorite local rivalries. Louisville's most hated rival, Kentucky, will host its first regional since 2006, and Indiana University is one of the competitors in that regional.
The winners of the Louisville and Kentucky regionals will compete in a super regional, for a trip to Omaha. This sets up a potential new installment of one of the country's best sports rivalries, that will no doubt gain the national pastime some national attention in Louisville.
Fans will no doubt turn out for the games and support the Cardinals, the baseball Cardinals. Because this city loves baseball. It’s in our blood.
Annie Moore is a sports nut and digital content producer at WAVE 3 News.
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