BOYS TOWN, Neb. — Twelve hours after dismantling LSU in a showdown of college baseball superpowers, Oregon State players filed off the team bus outside Skip Palrang Memorial Field House Tuesday morning.
The Beavers were about to meet dozens of eager Boys Town students, some of whom witnessed their recent 13-1 victory at the College World Series. Jack Anderson, Drew Rasmussen and Adley Rutschman gave opening remarks under a banner listing Boys Town High’s numerous state championships while students and faculty soaked in every word.
Players then fielded a variety of questions, ranging from the team’s fastest runner (consensus: Preston Jones) to their reasons for choosing OSU (coaches, program history and family environment were the most common responses). When asked to identify the team’s best player, Nick Madrigal was handed the microphone and sheepishly said “we’re all equal.”
The Pac-12 player of the year’s endearing answer to a light-hearted question epitomized the Beavers’ (56-4) prowess on and off the field. The response also resonated with many students who have been given a second chance at Boys Town.
“They are a very successful team and they’ve been through a lot of challenges this season,” said Ti’Jaih Davis, a Boys Town senior from Baltimore. Davis competes in football, basketball and track for the Cowboys.
“It’s great to have them come talk to us and motivate us to do what they’re doing when we’re in the position that they’re in. It’s inspiring to see.”
Davis is one of about 250 high school students at Boys Town, a non-profit organization that is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Founded by Catholic priest Edward J. Flanagan as a boys orphanage — girls have been admitted since 1979 — Boys Town now has 12 campuses throughout the United States in California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington, D.C. Its national headquarters are in Boys Town, Nebraska, a 1.36 square mile village surrounded by Omaha, about 12 miles west of TD Ameritrade Park.
“I just feel fortunate that these guys would bring us into their home,” said OSU sophomore outfielder Steven Kwan. “This is a great place to be and I think it’s interesting where people are from. Some of the kids introduced themselves from Maryland, Georgia, Florida. It was really cool talking to and getting to know all of them.”
Many famous athletes have toured Boys Town over the years, including Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. Mother Teresa, Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush have also visited.
The organization’s mission statement is “changing the way America cares for children, families, and communities by providing and promoting an integrated continuum of care that instills Boys Town values to strengthen body, mind, and spirit.”
The Nebraska campus features an on-site high school and residential treatment centers for children (ages 5 to 11) and adolescents (ages 12 to 18).
“We get kids here from all across the country,” said Boys Town High Associate Principal and Athletic Director Paul Blomenkamp. “There are residential treatment centers all over, but Boys Town is unique because it is the only one that has a high school on the campus. They live here, they get treatment, but they also go to school here.”
Instead of leaving campus, Boys Town students are able to compete in 11 sports with their peers. OSU practiced at the Cowboys’ baseball field on Sunday after opening the CWS with a 6-5 win over Cal State Fullerton.
Deacon Jones, a two-time Olympic competitor in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, graduated from Boys Town in 1954. He went on to run cross-country at Iowa, becoming the first African-American to win the NCAA championships.
Current Denver Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett also attended Boys Town. Barrett, like Davis, came to Nebraska from the rough streets of Baltimore.
“Back home in Baltimore it’s nothing but gangs, shootings, killing and drugs; that’s it,” said Davis, who has been at Boys Town for about three years. “So the only thing for us back home is to get into sports and basically just stay occupied and stay away from all the bad stuff that gets you off your mission of what you want to do.
“Everybody wants to make money, but it’s about your choice of how you’re going to make money. There’s a positive way and a negative way, so I chose the positive way. My parents and my coaches got me to Boys Town so I can worry about one thing instead of a million.”
Davis, a quarterback and defensive back, currently holds Division I offers from North Dakota and South Dakota State. With a big senior season, he hopes to attract even more attention.
His dream school? Clemson, the defending national champions.
“I just have to keep working,” Davis said. “Have to keep getting faster, getting bigger, stay on my mission.”
After speaking to the students, basketballs were brought out and games ensued.
Lengthy bump lines formed at a few of the hoops while others casually hoisted up jumpers. OSU’s players, who are three wins away from the greatest season in college baseball history, got to learn even more about their newest fans.
“We hit the jackpot this year with Oregon State,” said Herb Hames, the campus’ Director of Development and a volunteer ticket chairman for the CWS. “They’re an incredible team.”