Even the most skillful college sports analyst might have had difficulty predicting the outcome of this year’s baseball National Championships. And while it was outfielder John Norwood’s eighth-inning solo homerun that sealed Vanderbilt University’s victory in a 3-2 win over the University of Virginia, the story behind winning the first men’s championship trophy in the university’s history might be just as noteworthy.
The Commodore’s success was clearly a validation of Coach Tim Corbin and his young squad who tenaciously built the 51-21 record, and a second straight 50-win season, but it also didn’t hurt that their effort galvanized an entire campus, and the wider Nashville community who supported them, on a path that led all the way to Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park and to the National Championship. “We are so proud of our Vanderbilt baseball team student-athletes and coaches,” commented Laura Nairon, Vanderbilt’s Assistant Vice Chancellor for Business Services, “and for their victory, which earned them the distinguished title of 2014 College World Series Champions!”
Even though the campus was on summer recess at the time of the victory, the rising expectation of a Vanderbilt win spilled over to the greater Nashville area long before finals, as Beth Cain, Manager of the Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt University bookstore explains. “As the team kept winning, the support just kept growing,” she says, and Nairon agrees. “During the season, we came together as an institution, a city and a region to cheer on the team,” she remarks.
The possibility of a win for Vanderbilt left Cain and her Supplies Manager Jan Matlock with an interesting problem. “We knew that in the event that we won, everyone would want to show their school spirit,” Cain says, adding, “but we were also aware that there can be a lot of superstition in baseball – and we certainly didn’t want to jinx our team’s chances.” Working with both the Barnes & Noble College merchandise team and the Vanderbilt Athletic Department, a contingency plan was put in place and, using social media and the bookstore’s loyal following of 1,500 Facebook fans, Cain and Matlock arranged a pre-order of a variety of Commodore and Vanderbilt black and gold paraphernalia.
The bookstore website is also linked to the Vanderbilt Official Commodore Athletic site, which made ordering even simpler for the fans. “We just wanted to make everything as easy as possible for the fans to be able to share their school spirit,” Cain says. “A tremendous amount of planning took place to ensure that everything was ready in advance of Vanderbilt’s College World Series victory,” Nairon says, adding that once the championship result was known, the store was able to respond quickly to the flood of requests for College World Series and baseball merchandise. “I’m glad to say that the next day, when we opened our doors, we were able to offer a range of commemorative gear, including a supply of the Official Locker Room tee shirt our team wore. We really didn’t want to disappoint anyone,” Cain says. Maintaining that school spirit fever didn’t apply only to the team’s victorious homecoming. Throughout the new school year, the store is anticipating demand from returning students, parents and alums who want to show their Vanderbilt school spirit.
Two days after winning Vanderbilt’s first-ever men’s national title, Commodores’ head coach Tim Corbin was named National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball. It was justly deserved for a coach and team who few believed would make it to Omaha this season, and now Vanderbilt, and its fans and supporters, have the validation they deserve. “Our team isn’t just amazingly talented – they embody the drive, intelligence and integrity that reflect Vanderbilt’s core values,” Nairon says proudly. “Our bookstore team demonstrated splendid teamsmanship, too. They showed their support for our Commodores by making sure that fans were able to quickly gear up and show their pride for the baseball team,” she adds.
That support is a direct reflection of the relationship Cain and her bookstore staff enjoy with the Vanderbilt students, administration and athletic department. And it’s not one Cain and her staff take for granted. “I can’t think of another place where our new Football Coach, Derek Mason, will come into the store and send Tweets to the fans about the Sideline gear we have here, and to invite them to come and get their polos at the Vanderbilt store,” she says. “We just couldn’t ask for better partners in Vanderbilt,” she says.
Even with all the College World Series excitement, Cain is already focused on her returning students and how she can work to save them money and offer the kinds of products and services they’ll need for another school year. She’s also looking forward to the university’s first football game of the season — running up to five outposts during game days to ensure the fans can get their Vanderbilt merchandise.