OMAHA, NE – Notwithstanding its loss to NC State on Sunday, the Carolina baseball team is still in Omaha this week in pursuit of its first-ever College World Series title. And quite a few Triangle-area residents made the trip with them–including Tom Jensen, the team’s unofficial “superfan.”
“There’s actually a really positive vibe around the team, even after what happened (Sunday),” Jensen says. “This is a team that has shown an ability to bounce back from adversity all year, and these guys really feel like they can still do this. And we (fans) will do whatever we can to help them.”
Most of the time, Jensen’s better known as the director of Public Policy Polling, the Raleigh-based firm that’s fast developing a reputation as the most accurate pollster in the nation. But during baseball season, he’s more likely to be on national TV as the most visible (and audible) member of the Tar Heel fan base.
“It’s funny,” he says about his dual role. “I definitely have people recognize me on the street (and) in the grocery store as the Superfan–(but) nobody has ever come up to me in the grocery store and been like, ‘oh, man, you’re the pollster!’”
Though he’s the face of the Carolina fandom, Jensen’s not the only one in Nebraska wearing Carolina blue: he says he figures UNC has the second-largest fan base at the College World Series this year, behind only LSU. (Even Roy Williams made the trek to Omaha: Jensen says the basketball coach was in the stands for Sunday’s game.)
And while the Tar Heels have their backs against the wall after Sunday’s 8-1 loss to the Wolfpack, Jensen says he’ll never count out this year’s team after all the adversity they’ve already overcome. Nevertheless, he says even if the Heels don’t come home with a CWS title, it’s been a memorable season nonetheless.
“It’s a wonderful group of people,” he says. I’ve been around this program hardcore for eight years now, (and) we’ve never had a group of kids and parents as special as this year.
“And regardless of what happens the rest of the week, it’s just been one amazing ride.”
The Tar Heels face LSU on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. in a must-win game for both teams; Trent Thornton will get the start for Carolina. WCHL will broadcast the game in full on Tuesday; it’ll also stream live on Chapelboro.com.