OMAHA, Neb. – The Cal-Virginia showdown at the College World Series is a classic underdog-versus…
Father-son share journey to Omaha
The Cal senior left fielder only needs to glance towards left field of Cal's Evans Diamond to see the giant image of his dad, former Golden Bears standout Rod Booker, behind the outfield fence.
"Everyone says it looks like I have a twin out there on the wall," Austin says of his teammates.
The elder Booker experienced the magic of Omaha and the College World Series in 1980 when the senior All-American shortstop led the Bears to a third-place finish at Rosenblatt Stadium.
This year, now a senior himself, Austin gets to enjoy the life-long memory of college baseball's biggest stage along with his father.
The Cal program, just months after nearly being cut due to budgetary reasons, made its sixth CWS appearance Sunday against No. 1 overall seed Virginia.
The similarities between Austin and Rod don't stop there.
"Mostly everything," Austin says of the cues he takes from his dad on the field. "Everything that I've learned has been through his teachings and his experiences playing in the pros that he's passed on to me."
Despite growing up in Fairfax, Va., over 2,800 miles from Berkeley, Calif., there was only one place Austin wanted to play when he began sending his junior highlight tape to potential college destinations.
"It was definitely always where I wanted to be," Austin says. "Following in my dad's footsteps was always my dream."
Austin says he used to watch an old highlight tape of his father playing for the Philadelphia Phillies "10 times a day." Now, 21 years after his father starred in Omaha, Austin is following in his father's footsteps again and it's his dad that will be watching him.
"It's such a wonderful thing to be able to come back to Omaha and see my son there," Rod says.
It's not the first time they've been there together. Last summer, Rod and Austin were making the cross-country drive back to school from Virginia and decided to make a detour to stop in Omaha.
"We were looking over at the stadium and we said wouldn't it be something if we came back here next summer?" Rod says. "And sure enough, here we are. It's come full circle now."
He says the thing he remembers most about his trip as a player was the journey his team took to get there.
Like these Bears, his team had to fight through adversity through the loser's bracket. Trailing 8-5 entering the bottom of the ninth in the deciding game of their super regional, Austin's Bears scored four runs to extend their season and get to Omaha.
Sunday, on Father's Day, Rod sat in the stands at brand-new TD Ameritrade Park and watched as his son's team faced No. 1 overall seed Virginia. The Bears fought hard, as they have all postseason, through six scoreless innings but eventually lost 4-1.
Tuesday they'll face Texas A&M in an elimination game. These Bears have shown they won't make it easy on the Aggies. But even if it is the end of this historic run, the journey will have been worth it for Rod and Austin.
"To see what these guys have done on the field is just so very remarkable," Rod said. "They don't have to do another thing and I'll remember this team for the rest of my life."
With the memories made, Austin isn't likely to have to look towards that giant photo in left field as a reminder.
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