BATON ROUGE, La. -- An inspirational keynote address delivered by former LSU All-America pitcher Ben McDonald highlighted the LSU Baseball First Pitch Banquet Sunday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The banquet is an annual event that signifies the start of the college baseball season. The members of the Tigers' 2014 team were introduced at the start of the banquet, which also featured remarks by coach Paul Mainieri and former coach and athletics director Skip Bertman.
Freshman outfielder Jarret DeHart, sophomore shortstop Alex Bregman, junior pitcher Henri Faucheux and senior pitcher Nate Fury addressed the crowd of nearly 1,000 people, providing an inside look at the 2014 squad.
LSU opens the season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14 when the Tigers play host to New Orleans in Alex Box Stadium.
McDonald, a right-hander from Denham Springs, La., capped a magnificent 1989 season by receiving the Golden Spikes Award, given by the United States Baseball Federation to the nation's most outstanding amateur player. McDonald, who was also named National Player of the Year by Baseball America, The Sporting News and Collegiate Baseball, was the first player chosen in the free-agent amateur draft and made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles in September, 1989.
McDonald set an LSU career mark with 373 strikeouts and established in 1989 SEC records for single-season strikeouts (202), innings pitched (152.1) and consecutive scoreless innings (44.2). A two-time All-American and a 1988 Olympic gold medalist, he finished his LSU career with a 29-14 record and a 3.24 ERA. His No. 19 jersey has been retired by LSU.
McDonald enjoyed an excellent 10-year major league career with the Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers, recording 78 wins on the mound. He spoke to the audience Sunday night about the values of perseverance and overcoming adversity. He also advised the current LSU players to savor their college years.
“I played baseball at every level possible, including the big leagues,” McDonald said, “ and there’s no doubt I had the most fun in my three years at LSU. This is a special college baseball program; the only places where you can play in front of larger crowds are at the College World Series or in the Major Leagues. The experiences you have as a player at LSU stay with you for a lifetime.”
McDonald, who was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, has volunteered his time to several philanthropic endeavors, including Special Olympics, Sojourner Truth House (prevention of domestic violence) and Child Abuse Prevention. He has also made significant contributions for the funding of LSU scholarships.
McDonald stays connected to LSU baseball as the color analyst for the Cox Sports Television broadcasts of the Tigers' games.
Bertman, who introduced McDonald at the banquet, said his former pitcher is the best baseball player in LSU history.
“Ben was an amazing athlete with an incredible work ethic,” Bertman said, “and his success significantly raised the profile of our program. He gave everything he had every time he took the mound, and he was a tremendous teammate. He continues to be a magnificent husband and father, and an outstanding representative of LSU.”