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All the Hoos in Hooville

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- As the sun set over downtown Omaha, Nebraska, on the longest day of the year, more than two dozen parents, family members and friends of the Virginia baseball players were just getting started.

From the ashes of Dingerville -- the famous, former, LSU-inspired community of recreational vehicles that helped define the College World Series for decades at Rosenblatt Stadium -- has emerged Hooville. Thirteen RVs line the southwest corner of the parking lot at the Horseshoe Casino, in the shadow of Bass Pro Shops and a collection of chain restaurants, four miles from the baseball at TD Ameritrade Park.

Eighteen-wheelers whiz past on Interstate 80. It's a far cry from the KOA campground feel that Hooville's inhabitants imagined a while back on the ninth floor of the Doubletree Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, where these parents convene before and after games on Virginia baseball weekends.

"For those of us who hope to be here next year, we'll do it again," said Chuck Waddell, the unofficial mayor of Hooville. "This is an adventure. It's turned out to be everything we thought it could be and a whole lot more."

Chuck's son, Brandon Waddell, a sophomore left-handed pitcher, is set to start Game 2 of the championship series. Virginia, the country's top-ranked team, plays for its first national title this week, starting Monday night at 8 ET against Vanderbilt.

The Cavaliers are headquartered a short walk from the stadium at the Hilton Omaha, one of two AAA-rated four-diamond hotels in the city.

Yet on Saturday night, less than 24 hours after a flash flood nearly engulfed Hooville, there sat pitchers Waddell, Nick Howard and Artie Lewicki, left fielder Derek Fisher, first baseman Mike Papi and center fielder Brandon Downes, relaxing with their parents in a parking lot.

This is the essence of Virginia baseball at the CWS.

"It's awesome," said Lewicki, whose mother, Janet Higgins, shares an RV with Kelly Highfield and Ellen Young, the moms of Fisher and pitcher Austin Young. "It's been a unique experience for them, to say the least. They're having a lot of fun. And that's what it's all about here, enjoying the experience with your friends and family.

"That's why we love them, because they're here for us all the time."

Other Hoos in Hooville include parents of third baseman Kenny Towns, right fielder Joe McCarthy, catcher Robbie Coman, pitchers Josh Sborz and Cameron Tekker and student manager Taylor Myers.

Chuck Waddell organized the RV endeavor. The Virginia parents grew so accustomed to staying together in Charlottesville that they wanted a similar setup if the Cavs advanced to Omaha.

Waddell checked with several hotels as the postseason approached, but he found nothing reasonable for a block of rooms, so Waddell had to look at alternatives. Good luck connected him with Ed Leach of Leach Camper Sales. Turns out, Leach's wife is a longtime friend of Virginia coach Brian O'Connor's mother, a Council Bluffs native, and the Leaches' daughter attended high school with O'Connor and his brother.

The two men struck a deal. While many of the Virginia parents traveled long distances to Omaha -- Waddell and his wife, Terrie, drove almost 14 hours from Houston -- Leach set up the campers at the Horseshoe.

The parents brought or bought their own bedding. Everything else was ready.

"The greatest thing is that, at any time of day, you come outside and there's always someone to talk to," said Laurie Papi, Mike's mom, "always something to do."

Laurie and her husband, Joe, and other family members share a small camper, adorned on the inside with Virginia collectibles.

"It's a sight to see," Mike Papi said. "If you get in one of those with the wind howling, the thing is shaking, and it's tough for them to sleep. But when they all get together, they have a great time. And they're able to be together and come out and watch us play some good baseball."

Adam McCormick, a former substitute teacher who helped with the baseball team at McCarthy's high school in Scranton, Pennsylvania, drove straight through to Omaha for 19 hours on June 13. He arrived at 3:30 a.m. on opening day of the CWS, his Honda Civic packed with folding chairs and other necessities. He slept in the parking lot at a nearby Wal-Mart before gathering more supplies in the morning and heading to Hooville, where he's staying in the McCarthy camper.

A Penn State grad, McCormick equated the environment to a Beaver Stadium tailgate, only much smaller.

"It's an atmosphere that they've all created," McCormick said. "You grow up watching stuff like this, so the opportunity to be here is just great."

Hooville has a plastic swimming pool and a busy grill. There's a TV, always tuned to the CWS, of course. Many parents stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning, reliving every pitch of their sons' games.

Once, a few of them lasted until sunrise.

"We're all just going on adrenaline," said Laurie Papi, who canceled a reservation at the Embassy Suites in downtown Omaha to stay here. "I think [the players] think we're crazy. Mike keeps saying to me, 'Who are you?'"

The Cavs have helped make it fun, dispatching Ole Miss twice and TCU to reach the championship series.

Fans of other teams have joined in the late-night fun. Family from all over want to make the trip for the championship series. Others have gravitated over from Omaha, having heard of Hooville, which has its own Twitter account.

Last week, they received a visit from an employee of an Omaha hotel. She brought a cooler of drinks and the offer of discounted rooms, having heard the parents couldn't afford to stay for so long in more suitable accommodations.

The Hoos laughed. That's not it.

"We all just wanted to be together," Chuck Waddell said. "From a parent's perspective, it still hasn't sunk in that we could be the national champion."

Just imagine the party then.