City, mayor and fans heap praise on Gamecocks
What if they threw you a parade and everybody came? It would look a lot like Main Street in Columbia around noon on Friday.
Amid chants of “What we need is a national championship” and “Ray Tanner rocks,” thousands upon thousands of citizens of Gamecock Nation lined the parade route from City Hall to the Statehouse steps to welcome home the University of South Carolina baseball team, champions of the 2010 College World Series.
For devoted Gamecock fan Helen Askins, it was Christmas in July. The present she was hoping for had arrived Tuesday night in the form of a 2-1 win over UCLA.
“I was hoping and praying a lot, but after beating Oklahoma, I said, ‘We’ve got this.’ This is awesome – crazy, but awesome!”
As TV station helicopters hovered overhead, the excitement and pride were palpable. Everyone, from grandparents to small children, showed their pride in the team and Coach Ray Tanner.
The crowd that had gathered at the Statehouse, anticipating the team’s arrival at the end of the parade route, broke out in cheers of “One more year, one more year!” While Cocky led the way through the gauntlet of shouting fans and media, Tanner ran up to the podium to welcome his players to the platform and receive the key to the city from Mayor Steve Benjamin.
It was a moment Laura Campbell wouldn’t have missed for anything in the world, having just returned from Omaha two nights ago herself. Her son, Matt Campbell, played for Tanner from 2003 - 05, and her reverence for Tanner was clear in her voice.
“When my son was being recruited, he (Tanner) said it wasn’t if his baseball career would end, but when,” she said. “He wanted to set an example and make a difference in the man my son became. There’s no way I would have missed today.”