OMAHA, Neb. — In 2005, Rebecca Gunderson’s favorite color was orange.
So when she went about picking a team to cheer on at the College World Series that year, Oregon State seemed like the logical choice.
The Beavers went 0-2 in their first CWS appearance in more than 50 years, but that didn’t deter Gunderson from continuing to follow them.
In 2006 and 2007, Gunderson’s loyalty paid off as she saw the Beavers win back-to-back titles.
She had waited and waited for the Beavers to return.
Last Saturday, she was in the stands as OSU took on Mississippi State in the opening game and wasn’t about to leave early.
Not even when she didn’t feel well.
Gunderson, 20, said she started having symptoms of a urinary tract infection a week and a half ago but they had stopped so she thought everything was OK.
During Saturday’s game, she started having sharp pains.
“I had a fever of like 102.7 or something crazy like that,” she said Friday afternoon.
She made it through the game but later that night, she went to the hospital. The diagnosis was yes, a urinary tract infection, and she received antibiotics and was sent home.
But she had an allergic reaction and was back in the hospital on Sunday night. She found out the infection had spread into her bladder and kidney.
“It was kind of spreading to other areas as well,” Gunderson said. “Being a Type 1 diabetic, I’m really prone to infections and it’s really hard to fight them because I have a lower immune system.”
They finally got her fever down by Wednesday morning and she was set to be released later in the day.
Wednesday also happened to be the day the Beavers were making a stop at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center before taking on Indiana that evening.
“They told me that morning when they were doing rounds,” Gunderson said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I was speechless. They asked if it was OK if they came in and I was, ‘yeah, I don’t care if I’m dying, they can come in here.’ I was like, ‘yes, they have to come in.’ It was my dream to meet them.”
She met several of the players who presented her with a signed baseball and they chatted for a few minutes before leaving.
Shortly after leaving, coach Pat Casey returned and gave Gunderson a bracelet Casey got during the 2007 CWS.
“Coach came back in my room and I saw him take it off and then he put it on my wrist,” she said. “I was at a loss for words. It meant so much to me. He knows it’s in good hands, which it will be in good hands. It’s incredible, I just can’t believe it.”
Casey said the entire trip to the hospital was a powerful experience.
“I did it because you know, we’re out here running around the baseball field because we’re all healthy,” Casey said. “And to see kids, not just her, but to walk in there and see a kid in a wheelchair that’s never walked in his life tell me he’s got an infection but he can’t wait to get back because he plays wheelchair baseball.
“So what the hell, man. You’ve got to be kidding me, this is real life. I’m blessed to be around a bunch of great young men that can do things. It was inspiring to me and I’m glad I went. She was in particular very, very excited about us and liked us as a fan so I wanted to make sure that she knew how much I appreciated it.”
If that wasn’t enough, Gunderson had a chance to visit the team prior to Friday’s game against Mississippi State and talk with Casey, as well as pose for photos with the team.
“This is literally a dream come true,” Gunderson said. “I have been following Oregon (State) since they first got here, since like 2005 I have been following them. Every year I’m like, ‘come on OSU you’ve got to be here.’ This year was their year and I’m pretty excited. I’m at a loss for words, honestly.
“It’s a once in a lifetime chance. I’m a small-town girl from Nebraska. I live in Gretna, nothing special. I’m like, ‘why me?’ Incredibly thrilled to be here.
“There are no words to express how I feel right now.”