UPDATE (3:40 P.M. ET): MLB has officially announced the move to have the Royals and Tigers to play Thursday, June 13 of 2019 in Omaha at TD Ameritrade Park, two days ahead of the College World Series.
The @Royals and @tigers will play a regular season game in Omaha, Nebraska on Thursday, June 13, 2019 leading into the 2019 College World Series. The first MLB game ever played in Nebraska will be televised nationally by ESPN and played at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) June 21, 2018
Tigers general Al Avila, who was in attendance in Omaha for the announcement, shared his thoughts on the big news:
“All of us with the Detroit Tigers are thrilled and honored to participate,” said Tigers general manager Al Avila, who was in Omaha for the announcement. “The College World Series is one of America’s jewel events and is truly an institution within the baseball world. We are looking forward to showcasing the talent of our Major Leaguers on amateur baseball’s biggest stage.”
Whether this is the beginning of a weekend series or the finale of a mid-week series remains to be seen down the road.
Major League Baseball has made a conscious effort to have more “showcase” games. One such possibility on their bucket list has been arranging for a game to be played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, home of the annual College World Series.
The Associated Press has recently learned that this fantasy will become reality in 2019, and it will involve the Detroit Tigers playing in a game against the Kansas City Royals, who would likely be serving as the host.
AP sources: Detroit Tigers-KC Royals to play regular-season game in Omaha before College World Series starts next year. https://t.co/a5ps79OPqh
— Eric Olson (@ericolson64) June 20, 2018
Nothing has been confirmed on this front. However, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to be in attendance in Omaha on Thursday for a news conference to make the announcement.
MLB in recent years has had special showcase games — exhibition and regular-season — in an effort to not only promote youth and global influence. From games on military bases like Fort Bragg in 2016 to regular-season contests in Puerto Rico and Mexico this season, baseball has no doubt hit a home run.
This particular reported instance would mirror what MLB did in 2017 when they organized a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in Williamsport during the Little League World Series. The event was a smashing success, so much so, that they are running it back for this year’s LLWS and will include the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.
Manfred has been adamant about getting the College World Series integrated into this rotation of premier showcases. It will be the first ever major league game played in Omaha, which is home to the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate Storm Chasers, who actually play their games in nearby Werner Park. Omaha has been the host city for the College World Series since 1950.
Tigers catcher James McCann, a University of Arkansas graduate who played in the 2009 College World Series, talked of the experience of just being in Omaha and what it will mean for major league players who have never witnessed the environment.
“For guys who have never experienced Omaha,” he said, “especially the Latin guys who didn’t go to college here seeing that atmosphere — people rent out houses for the week even if their team isn’t there.
“They plan on their team being there, but if they don’t make it, they still go and have a great time. You don’t see that at any big-league venue. It’s just a different atmosphere.”
“I think it’s neat,” McCann said. “When I found out it was us, some of my most fond college memories are playing in Omaha. Talking to the guys who have played there, the consensus is, you don’t feel that atmosphere, that total team desire until you get to the big leagues and you play for the playoffs or World Series.
“It’s just different when you leave college and go to the minors and you are grinding out those long days the bus rides. You look back at Omaha as something like, ‘I can’t wait to play for a championship like that again.’”
Again, specifics of the event have not been disclosed according to sources. What we do know is that the 2019 College World Series will begin on Saturday, June 15, which would likely mean the game between the Tigers and Royals would take place on Friday the 14th.