OMAHA — The art of passing time during a rain delay has been passed down between ball clubs for more than a century and, after a rainy Tuesday, the Louisville Cardinals continued the time-wasting, group-bonding tradition of sitting around while Mother Nature played havoc with the College World Series schedule.
The Cardinals did have the benefit of a 4-1 lead Tuesday as the rain began, and ultimately suspended their elimination game against Auburn in the top of the fifth inning. Thus begun the wait, which, according to Louisville coach Dan McDonnell, isn’t such a big deal.
“If these kids are going to play this game for a long time, they’re going to deal with a lot of rain delays,” he said after the Cardinals completed a 5-3 win Wednesday to eliminate Auburn at TD Ameritrade Park. "We deal with this stuff throughout the year, so once you get to Omaha, we feel we had experienced it enough that it wasn’t anything new to us."
Still, with no sign of the game resuming Tuesday night and it eventually being moved to Wednesday afternoon, McDonnell and his team were left with a lot of time to fill. They chose different ways to pass the time while remaining focused on their ultimate goal.
For the team, the time-honored time-waster of choice is the game Mafia, which is equal parts strategy and team building or destroying depending on who you talk to. Either way, it’s time-consuming and apparently the best way to keep things light while the team’s season hangs in the balance.
“We stayed loose in the clubhouse playing Mafia, then we went back to the hotel and played some more Mafia,” shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald said. “Basically, anything to stay loose. Mafia is a game we play on the bus. I’m sure every team in the country knows about it and it’s just something fun to do while you wait on the rain.”
McDonnell, along with his wife, went a different, more traditional route in the form of watching the Tom Cruise classic "Risky Business." The 1983 dramedy did little to take the coach's mind off the Auburn pitching staff.
“I went back, flipped through the channels and 'Risky Business' was on, so that took me back,” McDonnell said with a laugh.
“We watched that, but then I got antsy, so I started watching some more tape. I got refocused in case we were going to play last night, but once it (the game) was called, I called it an early night.”
The Mafia and "Risky Business" approach may be a formula for success for future teams in Omaha, as the Cardinals went on to beat the Tigers on Wednesday to keep their season alive.
Now, the group of Mafia players is banking on the momentum carrying over to Thursday.
“We love each other; these guys are our brothers and we’re just playing for the guy next to us," Fitzgerald said. “Just because we win one game doesn’t mean we’re going to change anything. Know that if we lose a game and we’re done just makes us play harder. We’re just fighting for each other.”
Louisville will play Mississippi State on Thursday night with the teams' season on the line once again. Rain is on the forecast for Thursday, however, but maybe "Top Gun" is slated for the airwaves.