: LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri guest speaker at Rotary Club

Tryve Brackin
.LSU baseball coach Paul Maneri, center, was the guest speaker at last week’s Plaquemine Rotary Club. He is shown here with good friend, Father Cleo Milano, left, and Rotarian Ed Reeves, who invited him to speak.

Ed Reeves found himself a very personable and popular guest speaker for last week’s Rotary Club luncheon meeting. LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri delighted and certainly won over a group of Rotarians and guests, not only because of his sports subject matter, but his stories and good humor.

The Tiger diamond mentor had a series of quips and jokes for the club and one of his best was about how he realized he had gone as far as he could as the head coach at Notre Dame, a northern school where the climate is not as ideal for college baseball as in south Louisiana.

“We were ranked number one in the nation for three weeks in a row the season before I came to LSU. I could not see me going much further with the program,” said Mainieri.

The then Irish coach went to practice expecting to tell his players about their high ranking, but the South Bend, Indiana media already was at the practice field and interviewing the Notre Dame players like they usual do the football team. “You know there are two sports at Notre Dame. Football in the fall and spring football,” he quipped.

Mainieri said that evening at his home the telephone rang and one of his teenaged daughters answered and told him it was for him. He asked her to check to see who it was and she told him it was SPORTS ILLUSTRATED magazine.

The Notre Dame coach leaped up and answered the phone in great excitement and expectation: “Paul Mainieri speaking!”

The voice on the other end of the line then answered: “For 99 cents a week we can deliver to you the best sports magazine in the country...”

When the laugher subsided, Mainieri said: “I knew I went as far as I could at Notre Dame for certain. I jumped at the opportunity LSU offered.”

The third-year Tiger coach explained that LSU offers numerous positives for young baseball prospects who want to attend college.

“LSU has it all,” said Mainieri as he listed: Media coverage, a beautiful new stadium in the building process for this coming season, great weather for baseball, a tremendous fan support, and a great league in the Southeastern Conference.

The coach said LSU had the top rated recruiting class in college baseball this year and he said all the positives about the program attracts the premier players out of the high school ranks. Mainieri said young recruits are not as interested in LSU baseball tradition as they are in attracting attention from pro scouts by playing in a top-notch program.

“We have gotten back to recruiting kids with that God-given talent because of the many pluses of our program and our return to the College World Series, but once we talk I let them know I have three things I expect from them,” explained the Tiger coach.

Mainieri said first he wants the players to understand he plays players who can handle adversity and success with equal ability. He also expects a player to earn their college degree. He said his proudest achievement at Notre Dame was graduating all 71 of the 71 players he coached there. He said last year’s Tiger club is well on its way. The Tigers had the school’s highest grade point average ever for a diamond team. Fourteen Tigers made all-S.E.C. academic team.

Finally, the coach said he expects his team to perform community service. He said only one other LSU athletic team came close to them as far as service hours. The Tigers already have surpassed their 345 combined hours of community service from the previous year.

Mainieri said now that the team got back into the College World Series it is time to “Raise the Bar”. He said he guesses the only way to do that is to make a huge run at the national crown.

“We have a great group coming back. Nine of 11 regulars return,” he said.

Mainieri played and lettered at LSU (1976) as well as at the University of New Orleans. He played in the Chicago White Sox organization as well. He spent a stint as the baseball coach at the Air Force Academy and other schools before moving on to Notre Dame. He has won nine Coach of the Year awards and has won 900 games as a mentor. Notre Dame had never netted a first-place ranking in the diamond sport until he coached at the university.

“I came to LSU because of the great fans, facilities, and tradition. I have a good feeling about this next baseball team. I think we built upon our record-setting twenty-three game win streak of last year and have a very positive outlook for the 2009 season,” noted the Tiger diamond mentor.