NC State fans flock to Players Retreat to cheer on Pack in College World Series

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- NC State fans packed Players Retreat across from campus to watch Friday afternoon's College World Series match-up against Vanderbilt. The popular restaurant had been closed for 16 months because of the pandemic, reopening recently.

"There's been a lot of people who've been bugging me wanting to know, 'when are you going to open, when are you going to open? And we'll be there when you do.' And they came out. We registered 2,000 peoples vaccine cards which is just remarkable to me. We've only been open two days," said owner Gus Gusler.

Only people who show proof of full vaccination are allowed inside, with no restrictions on outdoor dining. The policy makes fans like Dorothy Overby more comfortable.

"With a lot of businesses they say you don't have to wear a mask if you're vaccinated, but you don't have to prove it. While this way I felt like they were taking a really positive step to make sure everybody was safe," Overby said.

Regardless of where fans sat, the excitement was palpable Friday, as the Pack continued their run to to the finals.

"(It's) a lot more fun when you're around a bunch of people who enjoy watching the sport and enjoy the team. It's all about that NC State in front of it. Instead of watching it in my apartment and screaming at my TV, I get to do it with other people," said NC State student Walker Harrington.

Overby returned to the restaurant after taking in a game this past weekend.

"Coming here last week on Saturday and being able to watch it, it felt like we were at the game," Overby said.

NC State began the season 1-8 in conference play, and had two other series canceled. The Pack rallied late in the season, winning seven of eight heading into the ACC Tournament, where they reached the finals before falling to Duke, 1-0.

"It's not anything I've seen in my lifetime as a State fan, so that's pretty great. Just incredible energy around the team," Harrington said.

Gusler added: "It's amazing. It's just like that Cinderella story. Dereck Whittenburg was in the other night, and I said this is the closest thing to what happened in 1983 that NC State has had. It's pretty remarkable,"

The return of customers certainly helps business, but for Gusler, who has owned Players Retreat for 16 years, it also had sentimental value.

"I love it. We've been here 70 years. We're not just a normal business in Raleigh, we're part of the fabric of the city, the history of the city," he said. "And it means a lot to people. I cooked here in 1971. I came to State in '67, it was the first place I came to have a beer. So this is a family. And we get three and for generations of people coming in here."

First pitch was delayed by more than an hour, after several NC State players were ruled out because of COVID-19 protocols.
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