BATON ROUGE, La. (The Advocate) - It has been three weeks since LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri learned the NCAA canceled the college baseball season during a live interview with Paul Finebaum on the SEC Network.
Since that surreal experience in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Mainieri has experienced others, including a news conference from his home via Zoom on Thursday afternoon.
While detailing his focus on preparations for the 2021 season, Mainieri also voiced concerns about how the pandemic could reshape college baseball.
“The future of college baseball is concerning if football season gets canceled in the fall,” Mainieri said. “If college football gets canceled and all that revenue doesn’t come in, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that belts will have to get tightened all around the country. The problem with our sport is that there aren’t a lot of teams that are self-sufficient like LSU is.”
Mainieri covered a wide range of other topics, including the NCAA’s decision to give spring-sports seniors an added year of eligibility and what players the Tigers could lose in the Major League Baseball draft.
“I’m glad the NCAA did what it did,” Mainieri said. “I thought it was the appropriate thing to do. It has a very minimal effect on us because we only have two seniors, (middle relief pitchers) Matthew Beck and Aaron George.
“It’s typical of an SEC baseball team, when you’re recruiting a high caliber of type of player … professional prospect players type of players you will lose the majority of them after their junior year. It’s not that Matthew Beck and Aaron George are not vital players. They are. I want them back, and they want to come back.”
Mainieri said he hopes the NCAA considers allowing baseball programs to have a couple of extra scholarships and relaxed roster limits for at least one year beyond 2021 because baseball is impacted by a professional draft, while other spring sports are not.
Cabrera, Henry top draft candidates
Mainieri said the total impact on the MLB draft on LSU and its 17-player recruiting class will depend on whether the draft is five rounds or 10 rounds.
He said he believes junior outfielder Daniel Cabrera and draft-eligible sophomore pitcher Cole Henry are likely to garner high-round selections.
“Just knowing there was going to be a draft was a major happening in our world of college baseball, especially in the SEC and at LSU,” Mainieri said. “In my mind and in my heart I felt we would probably lose a couple of our current players, specifically Daniel Cabrera and Cole Henry.”
What could have been
A Tuesday phone call from UL-Monroe coach Michael Federico caught Mainieri by surprise. The Tigers were supposed to host the Warhawks on Tuesday night, which prompted the call.
Because of his focus on the 2021 season and working from home under Louisiana’s shelter-at-home mandate, Mainieri admitted he didn’t realize the teams were supposed to play that day.
The LSU coach noted the fact that LSU was supposed to host Vanderbilt this weekend, an SEC clash of titans that was set to attract sellout crowds.
Mainieri told reporters that the Tigers (12-5), winners of five in a row, were starting to put all facets of the game together when the pandemic halted the season.
However, Mainieri noted the importance of keeping sports and life in their proper place.
“Perspective is an important thing to have right now. There are people losing their lives, their fortunes, their retirement (savings) and their jobs," he said. "There are a lot more things going on the world that are a lot more important than college baseball.”
By the numbers
Mainieri notched his 600th win at LSU vs. UMass Lowell on March 6. He ranks second among active coaches with 1,467-753-7 in 38 seasons. His .698 SEC winning percentage is third behind LSU’s Skip Bertman (.724) and South Carolina’s Ray Tanner (.700).
• The Tigers' five-game winning streak was fueled by some younger players. Freshman shortstop Collier Cranford hit .538 (7 of 13), freshman second baseman Cade Doughty batted .500 (9 of 18) and sophomore center fielder Giovanni DiGiacomo hit .471 (8 of 17).
• LSU pitchers ranked third in the SEC in opponent’s batting average allowed (.186) and fourth in ERA at 2.38. Opponents batted .028 against sophomore pitcher Jaden Hill, with one hit in 36 at-bats.
Copyright 2020 The Advocate. All rights reserved.