Sports

Go, Grams, go: 79-year-old Mississippi State fan in her glory at CWS

Lanie Boone, 79 years young and a lifelong Mississippi State fan, figures there will be plenty of time for sleep down the road.

Like most of the maroon-blooded folks in Mississippi, she was in Omaha to see her beloved Bulldogs capture the College World Series championship on Wednesday night with a 9-0 win against Vanderbilt. It’s the school’s first national title in any sport.

“This is something I’ve been waiting my whole life for,” Lanie said. “If the Dawgs were going to be there, we were going to be there because you could just feel that this was their time to do it.”

Never mind that Lanie uses a wheelchair most of the time because of her Rheumatoid arthritis, or that she and her two grandsons drove more than 13 hours from their home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, through the night Monday, or that they forked out $3,300 at the last minute for tickets through an online ticket service.

Lanie was determined to be in Omaha.

So when her two grandsons, 29-year-old Ben Boone and 15-year-old Justice Boone, were unsuccessful in talking their dad, David, into making the trek to Omaha on Sunday because of his work schedule, Lanie piped up and said, “I’ll go, and I’ll pay for it if you will take me.”

Lanie joked that her grandsons probably thought she was talking out of her head at first, but they quickly realized she was serious. Ben, who owns a concrete company, still had to work on Monday, and after getting up that morning at 5:30 and pouring 34 yards of concrete, they all hopped in the car about 8 o’clock that evening.

“And away we went,” Ben said. “Grams never batted an eye. She was more excited than we were.”

They found a hotel in Clarksdale, Arkansas, around 3:30 in the morning Tuesday and slept for four hours. They then headed toward Omaha and checked into a hotel in Council Bluffs, Iowa, just across the Missouri River from Omaha and TD Ameritrade Park.

“It was unbelievable,” Ben said. “We pull in about three hours before the game, and it looked like they painted the whole city maroon.”

As Ben and Justice wheeled Lanie to the stadium, she got a processional of high-fives both before and after the game. They already had tickets for the Tuesday night game and sat in the right-center field bleachers. Lanie was able to sit in a balcony area up behind where her grandsons sat, and they went back and forth to check on her.

“The whole experience was awesome, being there to see the Dawgs bring home the title after going to so many games (in Starkville) while growing up, but the thing that made it the most special was being there with Grams,” Justice said.

Lanie, wearing her effervescent smile, became a bit of a celebrity at the ballpark. During the lengthy rain delay on Tuesday, the workers at the Dippin Dots stand had her come sit under their tent so she wouldn’t get soaked.

“I’m a sports nut, so I didn’t mind getting a little wet,” she quipped. “But everybody there was so nice and so accommodating.”

Once it was obvious Mississippi State was going to win Tuesday night’s game, Ben jumped online at the stadium and purchased tickets for Wednesday’s game. They were able to get better seats, too, just past first base toward right field in the sixth row.

After Mississippi State knocked Vanderbilt ace Kumar Rocker out of Wednesday’s game and the Bulldogs’ lead widened to 5-0, Lanie said she could almost pinch herself.

“I’m sitting there in that stadium thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m here,'” she said.

But in truth, as soon as Rowdey Jordan led off the game with a single, she knew it was going to be a maroon sunset for the Bulldogs.

“That set the tone for the whole game right there. We weren’t going to lose,” she said.

It was bedlam in the stadium after that final out, and Lanie was able to get a picture of the Mississippi State team’s dog pile (or Dawg pile, as she clarified). Her only regret was that she couldn’t participate in the Dawg pile herself.

Afterward, Lanie and her grandsons went on a pilgrimage to find national championship shirts. The lines at the apparel tents were never-ending, and Ben was pushing his Grams in her wheelchair to get as close to the front of the line as possible. About that time, a man walked by them, leaned over to Lanie and asked her what size she wore. She told him a medium, and he pulled a shirt out of his bag, smiled and handed it over to her.

“I’ve already paid for it ma’am. It’s yours,” the man said.

It was that kind of trip.

As the game and the evening came to a close, Lanie said she had all sorts of thoughts running through her head. She thought about her late husband, Pete, also a devoted Mississippi State fan who died last year. Lanie still lives in the same house she and Pete bought 55 years ago.

“He was there, there with me in spirt,” Lanie said.

She also thought lovingly about her grandsons and their willingness to take her to the College World Series, and how deeply woven into the entire Boone family, Mississippi State had been over the years. They grew up going to football games, baseball games and men’s and women’s basketball games. Lanie’s daughters Carie and Barbara both graduated from Mississippi State in the 1980s, and Barbara played on the golf team.

“I worked hard growing up. We all did, and I was raising children and really didn’t have the money to do something like this, though,” Lanie said. “But, now, I’m blessed enough to do something like this and with my grandsons. I told them, ‘I don’t know how many more years I have on this earth, but to do something like this with y’all is worth every penny of it.'”

Lanie, Ben and Justice were all proudly sporting their Mississippi State national championship shirts on their drive back to Hazlehurst, Mississippi, Thursday morning.

“I didn’t get tired. I was too excited — and I’m not tired now,” Lanie said.

Not after the trip of a lifetime.

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