Will Cooper is on the cusp of a personal crossroad. The former Baylor School baseball standout is a year away from putting aside bat and glove to enter the world of finance.
For now, though, he is soaking up the College World Series experience in Omaha, Neb., as a member of the Vanderbilt Commodores, who are a win away from the national championship game.
The Commodores beat UC-Irvine on Monday and will play tonight against Texas.
In the meantime they've been taking in all that has become one of college athletics' premier events.
"It is everything you would expect," said Cooper, a former Best of Preps selection. "It's incredible -- the stadium, the people, how you're treated. Not making it to Omaha the first two years and finally getting here is a dream come true."
For most baseball players the first dream is to get drafted and play professionally, but the second would be getting to Omaha.
"As a kid you see it on TV and it seems like a great place to be," Cooper said. "It's a major-league-quality baseball stadium. I've seen a few pro stadiums over the years -- Tampa, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Boston -- and while it just holds 25,000, the seating, the places to eat, the lights, the clubhouses are up to big-league standards.
He talked with Wes Hodges, another former Baylor standout, and said the ex-Georgia Tech star's advice was to take it all in.
"This trip isn't something many people get to do, and I really want to soak it in and enjoy it -- everything from the games themselves to the fans, the events," Cooper said. "You want to be ready to compete but still enjoy the moment. It doesn't happen often and certainly not for many people."
An appendectomy one season and a broken foot in another have kept Cooper from enjoying the success he envisioned when he signed with Vanderbilt, but the Commodores' coaching staff has been most grateful for his contributions.
"Coop is the epitome of team first, individual second," head coach Tim Corbin said. "His personal road in our program has been 'choppy' at times because of injuries, but it has never deterred his personality, attitude and effort."
"I've had my share of injuries," Cooper agreed, "and now I give my best effort and work as hard as I can. At this point in my career it is more about enjoying my teammates and the moments and making sure I make the most of it."
He has played the last two summers for a summer collegiate team in Sanford, Maine, but plans to spend this summer working in the field of finance in Nashville and working out at Vanderbilt.
"I have played baseball for so long and have great memories of playing in the summers as I grew up," he said. "I'm getting close to the end of my career, but I owe a big thanks to my coaches over the years and especially to my parents."
He's two semesters from graduation but for now is taking time from career planning to enjoy all that the CWS and Omaha have to offer.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.