June 23, 2013 4:18:03 PM
OMAHA, Neb. - Sunday's national championship media conference showed the cultural differences between the two programs trying for the first baseball national title at either institution.
MSU (51-18) is powered by a southeastern fan base that packed Dudy Noble Field with crowds of over 15,000 people for the NCAA Starkville Regional. It's a college town that is revolving around the play of its baseball program right now and has a caravan of fans heading to Omaha this weekend for this series.
UCLA (47-17) plays in Jackie Robinson Stadium that has a capacity of 1,875 seats and the local crowd there may be more interested in Kobe Bryant's rehabilitation, Dwight Howard's contract situation or the struggles of the Dodgers and Angels.
It's big city versus small town. West coast versus southeastern recruiting bases and the most historically significant program to one university and a program trying to crawl under the shadow of a basketball past.
I'll have a feature in Monday's edition of the Dispatch on this topic but here's a preview of how the two programs are so dissimilar off the field and so similar on the field.
"We just don't have the physicalness as I see it as compared to the Southeastern Conference kids and their bodies," UCLA coach John Savage said. "Sometimes I look out there and say, 'Oh God' when we're stretching. It's not a real physical looking team. I think everybody in the room knows that but they're ballplayers."
Twitter and social media haven't stopped lighting up as MSU (51-18) plays for the first team national championship in school history. With most of the MSU roster coming from the states of Mississippi and Alabama, the Bulldogs players understand the cultural differences between their club near the Mississippi Gulf and their final series opponent near the Pacific Ocean.
"I don't know how much deer hunting or bass fishing they do in Los Angeles so off the field it's probably going to be a little but different," MSU sophomore first baseman Wes Rea said. "It's two teams playing for a national championship so they must be doing something right in my opinion."
Rea described a story about a close friend of his that works for Sanderson Farms about the reaction of folks in the Magnolia State after the final out of MSU's 4-1 victory over Oregon State University Friday afternoon.
"They work in the corn field all summer long (and) he called me after we won the game the other day and he looked across the corn field and saw everybody jumping around, going crazy," Rea said. "That is the kind of thing people are doing back home."
To define the cliché of small fish in a west coast ocean, at a school where the 2012 student population was 27,941 undergraduates, UCLA (47-17) plays in Jackie Robinson Stadium that only has a capacity of 1,820 seats. For their 6-0 victory over the University of San Diego in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional final, the announced attendance was 1,220.
In a distant contrast to the UCLA program's obscurity, MSU's lowest announced home attendance (which does represent tickets sold and not actual attendance) was the 2013 opener where paid attendance was 5,817 against the University of Portland.
The attention is obviously way different with Los Angeles being the No. 2 television market in the country and local interest being spread to several professional organizations in every sport. UCLA, who has won 108 team national championships in sports ranging from 11 in men's basketball to the seven in women's water polo.
"I have no idea what you're talking about because it's not like we 11 professional sports teams just nearby right?," UCLA junior infielder Kevin Williams said jokingly. "It's kind of nice to be able to play without that microscope at UCLA and then have people look up and we're in Omaha for the third time in four years."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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