OMAHA, Neb. — Of course, Illinois third baseman Grant Van Scoy is thrilled to be playing Big Ten tournament games at home. The Papillion, Neb., native has a cheering section of 60-plus at this week's games.
"It means a lot to play in front of my family and friends again," Van Scoy said.
But what he really wants is to return to TD Ameritrade Park in three weeks for the College World Series.
"That would mean everything to me," Van Scoy said.
Van Scoy routinely went to the CWS as a kid. Both at revered Rosenblatt Stadium and current TD Ameritrade.
"I'd go to two or three College World Series games every year," Van Scoy said. "Since I've been in college, right after the season gets over we've got to go play summer ball. I haven't been to a College World Series games in four years."
Van Scoy went 1 for 3 in Illinois' 6-2 loss to Maryland in Wednesday's tournament opener. He scored in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game at 1.
Maryland, the No. 6 seed, took command with four runs in the eighth on two-run homers from Maxwell Costes and Justin Vought against reliever Sean Leland.
Illinois, now at 36-18, moves into the loser's bracket, with an elmination game at 9 a.m. today against second-seeded Michigan. The Wolverines lost 2-1 in their first-round game Wednesday against Ohio State.
Win or lose at the Big Ten tournament, Illinois expects a berth in the NCAA tournament. The team is currently projected as a No. 2 seed.
Old stomping grounds
Each Omaha game turns into a reunion for Van Scoy. Players are allowed to put six family members and friends on a pass list. Van Scoy's teammates are helping out at TD Ameritrade.
"I use about 10 people's pass list," Van Scoy said. "I used up all their spots."
The Illini traveled to River City on Monday, giving Van Scoy more time to visit.
His extended family lives in Papillion and Millard, an Omaha suburb.
Van Scoy attended elementary and middle school in Millard. He was set to go to Millard West for high school but instead picked Papillion-LaVista.
His high school coaches and teachers are watching him in person.
"They all are very supportive of me," Van Scoy said.
In Omaha, Van Scoy becomes the tour guide for the Illini. The team is staying at the downtown Hilton, close to the Old Market restaurant and shopping area.
"The Old Market reminds me of home," Van Scoy said.
Van Scoy took some of his Illini teammates to his house near 84th and Giles. They stopped at his high school, the home of the Monarchs.
"Most of those guys are from Chicago," Van Scoy said. "They always tease me about how I live on a farm and I ride horses to school.
"They were impressed. It's cool that they got to see it."
Neither Nebraska nor Creighton offered Van Scoy a scholarship despite strong performances at Papillion-LaVista and Southeast (Neb.) Community College.
"Growing up, if you're from Nebraska, your dream was to play for one of those schools," Van Scoy said. "It didn't happen for me, but I'm very happy with where I'm at and I'm proud to be an Illini."
Van Scoy is 4-2 against Nebraska. So far.
"Hopefully, we get to play them again," Van Scoy said.
What's he doing after the season?
The senior plans to continue playing baseball. For as long as he can.
He's got an internship lined up this summer at Busey Bank. The business management major will graduate in December.
Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at email@example.com.