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Story Archives: Taking one for the team
|Taking one for the team|
LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri called it "taking one for the team."
Mainieri visited Wrigley Field in Chicago last month and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch of the Cubs' 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
"I'm not sure of what adjective would describe what that was like," Mainieri said. "It was pretty intimidating to look out at 41,000 people and do something that you have no talent to do. I'll give myself an A for effort, but I don't no about a passing mark on ability."
Mainieri is a close friend of Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush, and two of Mainieri's former players at Notre Dame - Aaron Heilman and Jeff Samardzija - are members of the Cubs pitching staff.The Cubs roster also features former LSU infielders Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot, members of the Tigers' 2000 national championship team.
"I just thought it was a good opportunity to get some exposure for our baseball program," Mainieri said. "It was really great. When I walked into the stands I saw three guys with L, S and U painted on their bodies, I also saw LSU flags and T-shirts. People were yelling for me to sign autographs, which is pretty amazing in Wrigley Field."
Mainieri, in his third season at LSU, directed the Tigers last month to the 2009 College World Series title, the school's first CWS championship since 2000. He was named 2009 National Coach of the Year by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Rivals.com.
"It's been an great summer," Mainieri said. "It's also been a bit draining, especially having to deal with high school players who end up signing with Major League teams."
Mainieri lost three high school seniors who signed with LSU, but accepted signing offers from Major League teams.
Leave it to the NCAA and other such powers to keep someone from celebrating their success for too long.
Especially when it comes to college baseball.
Mainieri has been deservedly riding the high waves of a national championship and using those waves to make it possible for even more titles to hang up in Titletown.
That quest seemed even more plausible throughout most of August when Lafayette pitcher Brody Colvin apparently turned down an offer from the Philadelphia Phillies to pitch for the Tigers.
But the rug got pulled out from under Mainieri when the Phillies made an offer on — get this — August 17, offering Colvin $900,000 from the $750,000 original offer.
You can't blame Colvin. That's close to a million dollars. Then again, was he using LSU to force the Phillies to raise the stakes?
The shame of the matter is that Mainieri and his coaches have spent the past two years courting Colvin and had him in their pockets until the Phillies snatched him away as the LSU coach was hanging his nameplate in Alex Box.
But Mainieri was very diplomatic in discussing the problems college baseball coaches face in recruiting.
"It can be frustrating at times, but it's part of the nature of being a college baseball coach. I certainly don't mind a player going pro after three years giving his time to the LSU program. You don't want to sell your team short by not going after a player who may go pro. You try and gauge his talent and his interest in coming to college. All I will ever ask a player is to be honest."
Colvin, was selected in the seventh round as the 227th overall selection last June. LSU signees Zack Von Rosenberg and Slade Heathcott, who also chose the pros after being drafted last June as well.
Mainieri does have a problem with the fact that Major League Baseball teams have until Aug. 17 to still sign their draft choices who previously signed with schools.
"I know they won't change the date and even if they did it wouldn't change players from going pro," Mainieri said. "But it would give college coaches a fighting chance to fill that hole."
Mainieri did have 13 other signees make it through freshman orientation Monday and enroll in school. They will be on hand for the 2010 season.
"We're anxious to get started," Mainieri said. "We feel we have a lot of talent to work with and will try to mold that talent into a national championship team."
Mainieri will also have to make time for a visit to Washington, D.C.
"They have changed the policy a bit at the White House in that the president does not invite any championship teams but football and basketball," Mainieri said. "The vice-president has extended an invitation to us and we are currently working with their office to figure out a good date to fly up."