Guest: It's time for the Women's College World Series in OKC. Y'all be nice

It took me several years to realize that Omaha, Nebraska, doesn’t glow year-round like it does in June.

As visitors come to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series, remember to treat them as the guests they are.

Every year since 1999, my best friend Paul drives from Minneapolis to Omaha, where we meet for the men’s College World Series. It’s a baseball lover’s paradise. Under picture-perfect skies, the nation’s best amateur teams play two games a day in front of adoring crowds, many of whom are simply there for the love of the game.

Is this heaven? It’s sure close.

But it’s not just the games that keep us coming back. It’s the vibe. The Midwestern hospitality.

The locals at the game, the docents at the zoo and museums, the staff at Ted & Wally’s Ice Cream, the cops directing traffic at the stadium, the kids hawking newspapers, the buskers in the Old Market. Everyone, it seems, is on the welcome committee. We’ve become friends with many of the people we’ve met in Omaha. Our friend Maureen, whom we met in about 2002, invites us to her house every year for Father’s Day brunch. I can already smell the bacon.

We feel so welcome, Paul and I have adopted a slogan that the NCAA used for several years: “Back Home in Omaha.”

In the early 2010s, I started staying in Omaha while traveling for work. I enjoyed it ― even in the dead of winter, even with the stadium empty. Because by then, the city had made such an impression, my opinion was set: Regardless of the season, I loved this place.

In the upcoming week, the softball universe descends on Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. Every year, I think about the fans who visit our city for the first time. For many, it will be the only time. I put myself in their shoes, and wonder about their first impressions. I’m sure it’s good. There’s a reason why one late civic booster tried to christen us “The Big Friendly.” It’s real.

Let’s don’t take it for granted. Many visitors’ sole impression of our city will be formed by their time here this week. For years, when Oklahoma City comes up in conversation, they’ll voice their opinions based on their experience during the series. We know the mayor, chamber of commerce and visitors’ bureau will roll out the red carpet. The airport, hotels, shuttle services and stadium are all prepared. But it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. The interaction with locals at the game, the friendliness of the bartenders, the accessibility across town, the cleanliness of the streets and parks, the charm of the local establishments.

You don’t need me to lecture, but I’ll say it anyway: Y’all be nice. Treat them like the guests that they are. Ask how they’re enjoying their stay. Buy them a drink. Be helpful. Offer suggestions for local restaurants and attractions.

They arrive as visitors. Hopefully, they’ll leave as ambassadors. And they’ll come back ― long after the glow of the Women’s College World Series has faded.

Russ Florence

Russ Florence lives and works in Oklahoma City. His column appears monthly in Viewpoints.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Women's College World Series: We can help make OKC a hit with guests