Leadership / 08.03.22
The ‘Other’ World Series of Baseball and the Ticket Manager Who Helps Make It a Success
With the All-Star break behind them, Major League Baseball teams are now frantically trying to outpace one another to get a coveted playoff spot in their division and, perhaps, go on to compete in the World Series. But did you know that college students have also been going through a similar cycle for three-quarters of a century? For the past 30+ years, Carol Foreman has been right in the thick of things, starting in 1990 on the operations side, and for the past 12 years serving as Ticket Manager for the NCAA Men’s College World Series, organized annually by the nonprofit College World Series of Omaha, Inc.
College World Series of Omaha, Inc., staff. L to R: Liz Clifford, Katie Karmazin, Kathryn Morrissey, Carol Foreman and Amy Hornocker.
Foreman spent more than the first decade of her career working in stadium hospitality and fan fest areas, overseeing autograph sessions among other things. When she transitioned to ticketing, she was the new kid on the block, as the ticket manager at the time was in her mid-70s and had spent 40 years in the job. The box office manager was in his early 90s. They both retired after the new stadium opened in 2011.
“I started my ticketing journey with the reseating of the stadium and helping out the last two years at Rosenblatt Stadium, which was the previous stadium, jumped in with the reseating and then became full-time ticket manager after that,” Foreman says.
That new stadium in Omaha, Nebraska, was recently renamed Charles Schwab Field. It seats just over 24,000 fans, not counting club seats and suites. Unlike Major League Baseball, the College World Series is not a “fall classic.” It is held every year in June, and in 2022 was won by the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”) who took down Oklahoma in two consecutive games in the best-of-three final.
“I think [Mississippi] brought the whole state with them the last two years,” Foreman, who noted that Mississippi State took the title in 2021, says. “Their fans were amazing, and they were everywhere. If you went to those championship games, it was all Ole Miss fans … Once the final game was over, they stayed for the trophy presentations. They stayed after the trophy presentations. They just did not want to leave. Those kinds of memories are wonderful. It is so great to see people supporting their teams. That is what I love about college sports is that people get behind their teams and just rally around them.”
The College World Series dates back to 1947 and has been held in Omaha since 1950. “The city of Omaha really embraces the Men's College World Series, and it is definitely a part of the fabric of our community,” she says. “It is just incredible the affinity they have for this event. It is the people who I love … It is still very much a family-friendly atmosphere. We get fans from all walks of life who come to the series. We have a lot of local fans, but then it is fun to have the team fans come in to support their players. It is just a fun atmosphere, and we think it is the best championship.”
The original College World Series ticket booth is long gone, replaced by Ticketmaster and partnerships with the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and MECA (Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority), which manages the day-to-day operations of the stadium.
“We work directly with the NCAA, and they have their ticketing staff that we work very closely with on the Men's College World Series. Then we also work with the box office staff. What is great about them is they have had the same window sellers for the entire time we have been there. Their people do not leave there. It is nice to see the same faces when we come back every year. That is always great. We just have a really good partnership that makes things work very smoothly.”
Foreman says, “Probably the biggest thing is that now we (NCAA, MECA and College World Series of Omaha, Inc.) are all on Ticketmaster. Last year was the first year we were all on the same ticketing system. We were on a different one prior to that … It has definitely made things a lot smoother, a lot easier and a lot more convenient for fans as well.”
Other recent changes have also helped make the fan experience even more enjoyable.
“We went all mobile in 2021, so we continued that for this year,” Forman says, adding that it now applies to tickets and parking for season ticket holders and the hospitality area, too.
“It was easier for our season ticket holders because now they had everything in one place,” she explains. “Oftentimes when they want to transfer their tickets, they would also have a parking pass to go with that, but they would have to hand off that parking pass. Now they can transfer their tickets and their parking to their friends or family [by email]. It is so much easier.”
Making sure fans had the information and education they needed was key, especially as some were using mobile for the first time in 2022. “It is interesting because we have [some] season ticket holders who [would say] ‘I just don't get this. I just do not understand.’ We would walk them through it and then by the end of the series, they said, ‘We love this! It ended up working out so great because we did not have to worry about putting it in the mail or meeting up with someone. It was just so easy to do.’”
Foreman says, “I think we have made a lot of converts that [mobile] is just a lot easier to manage, and then if they could not use their tickets, they had the opportunity to sell those tickets to others as well, and all through the same account. They were able to log in to their NCAA account manager and transfer tickets to whoever they needed to, book tickets and parking, or they could sell their tickets and parking. We offered parking resale for season ticket holders as well this year so they could sell any parking that they did not need out of the package.”
Stadium operator MECA put staff with iPads at each of the gates this year. “If someone had a ticketing issue, [if] they could not pull up their tickets, things like that, or somebody … came to the window and bought a ticket and did not have a smartphone, we would send them to the gates and that person with the iPad would assist them … to get into that game. That was a huge help,” Foreman says. “We had heat in the upper 90s and low 100s during the series, so not having to trek all the way back to the ticket office to get assistance was huge. People really liked that aspect of it.”
Foreman says, “Also, this year, the NCAA added a new live chat vendor, Satisfi Labs. It is more of an AI type of live chat where you could put in some pre-information. If somebody was just looking for a game schedule or information about how to transfer their tickets, it would bring that information up, and then they could find that information right away through live chat. We also provided live agents that would answer any questions if what we had pre-selected didn't answer what they needed or they had a comment that they wanted to share. That was huge for us. We have had live chat for a while through our office and, honestly, it was taking up a lot of staff time to answer all those questions. We found, having that AI aspect added to it, that our live engagement with people went down dramatically and that freed up our staff to do other things.”
There were different things with egress this year as well, Foreman explains. “The stadium put in walk-through metal detectors; they had those for the first time. That helped with getting people into the stadium in a timely manner. That was a big help because with the timing of our games — and sometimes if the first game was running late — we did not have a lot of time to empty the stadium and then get people in [for the second game].”
While around 5,000 tickets are available through a public on-sale, Foreman focuses on the largest fan segment, 12,000 season ticket holders and group sales.
“I just manage a small portion of what we do here,” Foreman says modestly. “It is mostly season tickets and group tickets and work with the NCAA on the advanced sale, but, gosh, our season ticket holders are our lifeblood. They are the ones who come day in and day out and have made this a family tradition. Making sure that we are taking care of those season ticket holders is my best piece of advice [to share with my ticketing industry colleagues]. They have been the ones who stuck with us for decades. The majority of our season ticket holders have had them for 20 years or longer, so [it is important] to make sure that we take care of those people who have supported us throughout the years.”
Over the years, many of those who played in the College World Series have gone on to distinguish themselves in Major League Baseball. However, few have been on a team that won the college series and then went on to also win the top prize in the big leagues, among them Roger Clemens (Texas Longhorns, 1983, and New York Yankees, 1999, Houston Astros, 2005) and Ed Sprague (Stanford Cardinal, 1987, 1988, and Toronto Blue Jays, 1992, 1993). We will have to wait and see if any more former college players get to the Fall Classic this year. As for Carol Foreman and the College World Series, “Now it is time to start for next year,” she says. “We will get that going here pretty quick.”