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Day Two: Postcards from Omaha

June 16, 2006

Day Two Photo Gallery

Georgia Tech Press Conference (6/15/06)

Senior second baseman Mike Trapani and junior pitcher Blake Wood share their thoughts on Georgia Tech’s trip to the College World Series. The Yellow Jackets are preparing to face Clemson Friday at 2 p.m. ET in their opening game.

Mike Trapani talks about his battle with Tourette’s Syndrome, coming to Tech as a walk-on, his role as a team leader, his family, and the Yellow Jackets’ popular camouflage t-shirts . . .

“Everyone is asking about our `camo’ shirts. I guess they were my idea. I was talking to one of my good friends, Will Sullivan. We both wanted to go to the Naval Academy and play football. He reminded me that he’s getting ready to go to war and we get to play baseball. That’s the message I wanted to send to the team.

“Who knew it would be such a fashion statement?

“Will ended up going to West Point. When I couldn’t get into the Naval Academy because of Tourette’s, he sent a letter saying that if you don’t take this guy, I’m not coming either. He’s in Louisiana training right now and he leaves for Iraq in September.

“My parents, Mike and Mary Jane, will be here. So will my grandfather, Reid Trapani. He’s 82 years old but he acts like he’s 20. Everybody calls him Big Dude. He’s Big Dude and I’m Little Dude.

“Before last season, we had a player transfer, so Coach Hall told me that he had some scholarship money available and he was going to give it to me. I was kind of blown away by it. It’s not much, but the amount didn’t matter to me. Just to be able to say that I earned a scholarship.

“I’ve been doing a lot of interviews with different writers and TV announcers out here. Naturally everyone asks me about Tourette’s. Sometimes they feel awkward asking me, but I don’t mind talking about it. It’s just something that I’ve learned to deal with. I was fortunate when I was in high school to have great teammates and friends who stuck up for me when other kids or other teams tried to tease me about it. And my teammates at Tech have always been supportive. They get excited when I throw up during games – that’s how we know we’re going to win.

“People ask me about being a team leader. Certain people can lead much better than I can by example, I don’t have the most God-given talent, so I have to lead by voice and my heart, and people tend to listen to that.

“It’s a lot better being in Omaha than sitting at home, working Coach Hall’s baseball camp, like I was in 2002.”

Blake Wood talks about finally making it to the College World Series, another rain delay, the strong play of Tech’s pitching staff and his family’s trek to Omaha . . .

“I think just knowing that we were finally going to the World Series after two years of disappointment was a great feeling. Now that we’re here, we’re really excited to be here, but we want to win. We’re not just happy to be here.

“It was exciting to pull up to the stadium today and see the field, but then to have to sit in the visitor’s locker room and watch it rain and lightning was a little disappointing. We didn’t really get to practice on the field or anything. It seems like the rain has followed us everywhere – the ACC Tournament, the Regional, the Super Regional and now Omaha. Maybe that’s a good omen. But I didn’t know it rained like this in the Midwest.

“The wind definitely blows out here. Yesterday during BP (batting practice), the wind was blowing about 30 miles an hour and little pop ups were flying out at the high school field. But I think playing in our park at Georgia Tech, we’re used to the wind so I don’t think it will be a big deal to us as a pitching staff.

“My parents, Jimmy and Connie, and my younger brother Scott drove out here from Atlanta. They drove about 14 hours yesterday and got as far as Kansas City. I talked to them last night about 7 p.m. and they had just gotten into Kansas. That was about 12 hours in, so they were struggling a little bit. They got up this morning and drove the rest of the way here, so they made it to Omaha.

“People always talk about our hitters, and they should, because we’re a great hitting team. I don’t want to say they dog our pitching staff, but they definitely talk more about our hitting. I guess it’s good to fly under the radar a little bit. When it’s really mattered our pitchers have stepped it up. Getting recognition is nice but it’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to win games, and in the postseason we’ve shown as a staff that we can win low-scoring games.

“After our very rain-shortened practice this morning, we had an autograph session. All the players were seated at long tables on the concourse and hundreds of fans and kids came through for autographs. The line literally wound all the way outside the stadium. It was great to see all those kids having a good time, getting autographs and meeting the players.

“In the evening we came back to the stadium for a barbecue with all eight teams. Naturally, in Omaha there was plenty of meat. They told us they had two-and-a-half pounds of meat per player.

“After the barbecue all the teams paraded into the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies. It was amazing. The stadium was packed. Each team walked in while the video board played a highlight video. The first player carried your school flag, just like in the Olympics – of course, Trap (Mike Trapani) carried the Georgia Tech flag. As the National Anthem played, Challenger, the bald eagle, flew in from center field and landed on the mound. The ceremony ended with a fireworks show.”

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