LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - With the excitement of getting to Omaha, comes a lot of distractions and Cardinals head coach Dan McDonnell said he’s challenged his team to stay focused on what matters.
“I preach it to my players, I’ve probably preached it every year, but you look back and you go “man, I don’t know if I did a good enough job myself”,” McDonnell said. “Because it’s overwhelming, there’s so much going on. You want to be respectful and you appreciate the love everyone’s giving you, but you’ve got to manage your time wisely. So I met with our team on Sunday and challenged them of the challenges ahead.”
For many of the Cardinals, a trip to Omaha is the fulfillment of a life-long dream. UofL freshman Alex Binelas grew up watching the College World Series as a fan. And this appearance has seen his Omaha journey come full circle.
“So my mom, she sent me a picture of me getting autographs from.. I think it was 2013,” Binelas said. “And it was a North Carolina player down the right field line. I was standing there and he was signing a ball for me. And I remembered today, like I was signing autographs right there by the right field line so it was a pretty special moment.”
Binelas, who’s hitting .307 for the season and has received several freshman All-American honors, said this trip has already lived up to his expectations as a fan of the game, before the first pitch has been thrown.
“It’s something that you always try to get to and watch, as a fan, is the College World Series,” Binelas said. “And now that I’m getting to play in it, I can’t believe it. It’s been a blast so far and we haven’t played a game yet.”
McDonnell said a trip to Omaha is every young baseball player’s dream, and now his job is to keep the team focused among the fanfare and excitement surrounding it.
“Stay balanced, keep the main thing the main thing," McDonnell said. "You know we all got here because we played great baseball and we want to prepare to play great baseball however that is, each coach has their own way of doing that. I just want to be myself and keep doing the things we’ve been doing to this point.”
Just a little of the fanfare from media day, the team had an autograph session, team pictures with the Road to Omaha statue and later, the opening ceremonies.