OMAHA, Neb. -- The Louisville team bus, nearly empty as the Cardinals ate breakfast at their downtown hotel on Monday, returned from Eppley Airfield with guidance from a police escort as George and Andy Rodman sat inside.
The father and brother of fallen Louisville Metro Police Department officer Nick Rodman arrived in Omaha to watch the Cardinals.
Nick Rodman, who died March 29 after his police cruiser was struck by a suspect fleeing arrest, was a noted Louisville baseball fan. His family regularly hosted a tailgate beyond the left-field fence at Jim Patterson Stadium -- and he dreamed of traveling to Omaha to watch Louisville in the CWS. When Ryan Summers, a reserve outfielder for the Cardinals, heard news of Rodman's death and that he left a wife and two young children, Summers felt a connection.
Summers' father, James, serves as a veteran patrol officer in Westfield, Massachusetts. The younger Summers, a senior and Louisville team captain, has interviewed for a position with the FBI and awaits word on an entry-level position through the bureau's collegiate hiring initiative. So when George and Andy Rodman -- both of whom work on the LMPD -- spoke to the Cardinals last Wednesday and presented the team with a flag that bears Rodman's badge number, 7162, Summers felt more than just a connection.
He felt a calling.
For the past six days, Summers has taken care of the flag. He hangs it at practice, folds it respectfully and stores it on the team bus that delivered the Rodmans from the airport on Monday.
The flag was on display in the heart of the Cardinals' third-base dugout at TD Ameritrade Park on Sunday as Louisville beat Texas A&M 8-4 to snap a five-game losing streak at the CWS that dated to a 2007 win over Mississippi State.
"Our team motto is 'Run toward the roar,'" Summer said. "[Rodman] made the ultimate sacrifice. I know he's up above, watching us. And not only is he watching up above, that flag's a part of him."
Rodman's death hit Summers hard in part because he recalled the 2012 death in the line of duty of Westfield officer Jose Torres, a friend and co-worker of Summers' father.
Torres, too, left behind a young family.
"Ryan definitely knows the meaning of the thin, blue line and what a tight community we are," James Summers said Monday in Omaha. "And I think he knows the risk and responsibility that we accept every day when we put on that uniform.
"I hope by carrying that flag that he can be part of the healing process and give those family members some peace and maybe some joy that [Rodman is] being well represented by the baseball team."
Ryan Summers talked on Sunday with anticipation of the moment he would see Nick Rodman's father and brother in Omaha.
"I feel we just have to pay tribute," Summers said.
No one better to do it, said Louisville coach Dan McDonnell.
"You win with leaders like that," McDonnell said.