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Paul Mainieri prepares to leave with his grandson Holden Roth, 6, as LSU's baseball team departs Alex Box Stadium for Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series Thursday June 15, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La..

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

OMAHA, Neb. — For some LSU baseball players, this weekend may be their only chance play in the College World Series, so coach Paul Mainieri wants to make sure they get the full Omaha experience while they are in Nebraska.

LSU won’t play until Saturday night and Mainieri is not instituting a curfew on Thursday night, the Tigers’ first in Omaha.

The team practiced shortly after arriving in the Midwest and will do so Friday, as well, but Mainieri wants his players to have a little fun before it's time to focus on Florida State.

“The challenge in Omaha is much like the challenge in Hoover for us,” Mainieri said. “You want to look at this tournament like it’s a reward for the body of work in your regular season. And the people who organize the tournament have so much other stuff, ancillary things, that are fun and enjoyable to do and different experiences for the kids.

“On one hand, you want to enjoy yourself and let the players have an experience of a lifetime, to come to the College World Series and do all these other things. On the other hand, you also want to win. It’s a lot more fun to win than not to win when you come to this place.”

Win or lose, LSU will tour Offutt Air Force Base just outside of Omaha on Sunday as a team field trip between games.

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There in spirit

Mainieri said LSU will make U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise an honorary coach this weekend as he remains in critical condition after being shot in the hip Wednesday.

Scalise, who went through a third surgery Thursday morning has been a longtime supporter of the LSU baseball program.

“Congressman Scalise is a good friend of LSU baseball,” Mainieri said. “He’s a graduate of LSU, he’s a big time LSU baseball fan, he comes to games a lot, he loves baseball as evidenced by him participating in that game. They tell me he’s one of the best players of all the congressmen. Our hearts are broken for he and his family.”

Scalise and several others were shot while practicing for the annual congressional baseball game.

All congressmen in the game will wear LSU baseball uniforms donated by the school in honor of Scalise. The game was still scheduled for Thursday night.

“Hopefully, it’ll bring a little joy to him, and he’ll have a full recovery,” Mainieri said before the team left Baton Rouge on Thursday morning.

The other Tigers in town

Waiting for LSU as the Tigers unloaded the team bus at Creighton for its practice session was a group of miniature Tigers.

It’s tradition for the local little league teams in Omaha to pick college programs that might make it to the College World Series that year for their team mascot and uniforms.

On Thursday, the little Tigers got to meet their bigger counterparts.

“They’re fan favorites,” coach Scott Jochim said. “Best fans in the country. We had the first pick, and we picked LSU out of the pool just for that reason.”

Mainieri and players signed autographs for the group, ages 8 to 10, and Mainieri even gave a few coaching tips to the young team and peppered them with a little college baseball history.

Mainieri also asked who their favorite player is. LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson was the overwhelming favorite.

Staying connected in Omaha

If you’re in Omaha for the College World Series and looking to check emails or read the latest baseball coverage from The Advocate, you’re in luck.

Cox Communications announced it will open its more than 2,300 WiFi hotspots throughout the Omaha community free of charge to everyone, regardless if they are a Cox subscriber.

The promotion begins Saturday and will carry through until the end of the series.

Follow Mike Gegenheimer on Twitter, @Mike_Gegs.