BATON ROUGE -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry departed for spring training Wednesday after serving as the keynote speaker for the LSU Baseball First Pitch Banquet Tuesday night in the Maravich Center.
Hendry, a longtime friend of LSU coach Paul Mainieri, also watched the Tigers practice in the New Alex Box Stadium prior to the banquet. LSU, ranked No. 1 in two preseason polls, opens its season at home Feb. 20 versus Villanova.
Hendry, a former head coach at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., has worked as the Cubs general manager since July 2002. The Cubs posted a 97-64 record in 2008, the best mark in the National League. Hendry and Mainieri began their association 31 years ago when they coached together at Columbus High School in Miami.
Hendry delivered a motivational message to the LSU players prior to Tuesday’s practice, and he repeated it to the First Pitch Banquet audience.
“I told the players that the word ‘average’ does not apply to LSU,” Hendry said. “Average means that you’re either the best of the worst or the worst of the best, and that’s not acceptable here. The team must embrace the expectations that come with the No. 1 ranking and play at the highest level.”
Two of Hendry’s players with the Cubs – infielders Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot – were members of LSU’s 2000 national championship squad that was saluted at the banquet.
“Ryan and Mike are two great examples of young men who have earned their way to the big leagues,” Hendry said. “No one works as hard as they do, and they have become very valuable to our organization.”
“We were so honored to have Jim Hendry speak to our team and participate in the First Pitch Banquet,” Mainieri said. “I know our players will be positively influenced by his words. Jim is certainly one of the most knowledgeable men in baseball, and we sincerely appreciate the time he spent with us.”
Hendry said he has tremendous respect for the tradition of the LSU program and the integrity of its head coach.
“I have an 11-year-old son who is a baseball nut,” Hendry said. “If he grows up to be a man like Paul Mainieri, I know I’ve done a great job as a father.”