Mainieri, Baseball Players Speak at Media Day

LSU head coach Paul Mainieri
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri
Hilary Scheinuk
Bill Franques
Bill Franques
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE -- LSU coach Paul Mainieri met with reporters Friday during the Tigers' annual Media Day activities prior to the squad's first practice of the spring semester.

LSU, ranked No. 3 in the USA TODAY preseason poll, will open the 2013 season at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 15 versus Maryland in Alex Box Stadium. Following are Mainieri quotes from Friday's press conference:

LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri
Opening statement ...

"This is an exciting day for us. It is a thrilling day. I can't wait to get out of bed this day every year. We know it has begun because today is the universal college starting day among the entire country. Everybody is starting practice on Friday, January 25. It is our first full squad practice and we are jumping right into it.

"I know a lot of people are going to ask questions about the third starter. I'll tell you upfront that we are not going to decide that until two weeks from today. We are going to extend everybody and let the guys pitch and then we are going to decide after a couple of weeks, with one full week left to go, who will be moving into that third starter role, who will start the first mid-week game and also who will be our closer.

"I have a lot of optimism. I feel great about this year's ball club. I know everybody thinks I'm always optimistic every year, but that is the way I coach. I believe every year is the year and this year is no different. I think my optimism is very well placed. We have a lot of returning guys from last year's team. Obviously we are very fortunate and I don't think a lot of coaches could stand at their media days around the country and say they have two hitters returning as seniors with the capabilities of Raph Rhymes and Mason Katz. Rhymes is the reigning Southeastern Conference player of the year, led the nation in hitting last year, and Katz's 13 home runs last year are the most of any player returning in the SEC. Those guys in the middle of the order, along with a freshman by of the name of Alex Bregman, are going to give us an outstanding heart of the order, maybe the best we've had in a few years. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about the rest of the lineup. I also think we have really good depth in our pitching staff. It would have been great to have (Kevin) Gausman back for one more year. That would have been the finishing touch on this team, but I do believe the depth in our staff, led by Ryan Eades and Aaron Nola, which gives us two top-notch starting pitchers, gives us a real chance. There is no question in my mind we will be right in the fight. Obviously we have to get the job done on the field, but the talent is there, the attitude is there and this is a very close-knit team. It is a good combination of experience and youthfulness, and it is time to start getting ready. Only 21 more days until we open it up against Maryland." 

On this year's team ...
"I think this year's team is going to be much more balanced than last year's team. I thought last year's team had some really exceptional players, but we had two or three spots in our order that were not at the level we would have liked to be. I think this year's lineup has a much better chance to be solid one through nine. The greatest addition to our team for this year is due to two factors. Number one being Alex Bregman coming in and right from the get-go be a very vital player in our attack. He will bat in the three-hole as a freshman. I'm putting a lot on this kid's shoulders. He will be our three-hole hitter and starting shortstop as a true freshman, that is a lot, but I think this kid can handle it. I have no doubt he can handle it. With Bregman and Rhymes and Katz in the middle of the order, that will give us a formidable heart of the order. The other thing that has me really excited is I felt for the last couple of years that we have had a shortage of left-handed presence and even speed in our lineup. I like the idea that Chris Sciambra is back, fully healthy, Sean McMullen, a junior college transfer from Delgado, and then two freshmen I am unbelievably excited about. I can hardly hold in my enthusiasm about Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson. Both of them can flat out fly, they are excellent athletes, they are excellent outfielders, they are tough to strike out, and they can handle the bat and their speed is going to be a tremendous asset for us. Two of those four players are going to play center field and right field; the third one may end up being the designated hitter. That way we would have three left-handed hitters that could run in the lineup at one time. I think the combination of Bregman and those speedy left-handed guys is going to make us a lot better."

On getting to Omaha ...
"I don't like standing up here and knowing that we haven't been to Omaha in three years. Every year you roll out of bed at LSU and the goal is to go to Omaha and win when you get there. I know that is the goad. That is my goal, which is why I came to LSU. I know that everyone who follows the program has that same goal and anything short of that ends up being disappointing. It doesn't scare me. I embrace that because that is what we want. I think we have a team that is capable of getting to Omaha. Although, I do know it is hard to get to Omaha. I know Skip (Bertman) made it look easy for a lot of years, but it is not that easy. It is getting more difficult because there continues to be so many more good programs out there that take college baseball seriously. There is not a gimme in the SEC. Every game for 30 games, if you don't show up and play your best, you will lose, it is that simple. You will be battling it out with teams that are as every bit as talented as you, and you have got to get the job done. You have to make the plays. You have to make the pitches. You have to get the big hits. That is the way it is supposed to be. This is the big leagues of college baseball. What we are going to do is fight through a 56-game regular season schedule to hopefully put ourselves in a position like we were in last year. You don't think about Omaha right now. You don't think about the NCAA tournament. You don't think about any of that stuff because you have to take it one game at a time for 56 straight games and then hopefully you've done a body of work that is going to get you into the postseason and put you in the most positive situation that you can be as you go into postseason."

On Alex Bregman ...
"If I were to rate Bregman, I would give him a seven and a half right now. He is a really good shortstop and he is getting better. He is very coachable. I love his enthusiasm. I love his athleticism. He has a strong accurate arm and he has good hands. He just needs to play more. One of the things is that he didn't play his whole senior year in high school but last summer he did some catching, he played third base, he played all over the place. Now he is starting to play shortstop everyday again for the first time in a while. There are going to be some moments when he might not make a play, but I think he is more than adequate and is going to do a good job for us. The other thing is he is going to be a great hitting shortstop. This kid can really hit. If we had the old bats I would stand up here with confidence and say this kid would hit 15 home runs this year. I don't know what he is going to hit, but I hope he can hit double-digit home runs. He is going to be a tough out. He is not going to strike out. He is going to hit in the clutch. I have been coaching for 30 years, and I've only been around this kid since August, but I have never been around a harder working, more dedicated, obsessed-with-the-sport-of-baseball kid than this guy."

"One night in late November, we had already finished fall practice, we had our weight workout and conditioning workout during the day, and he came over later in the day at dusk because he wanted to take some ground balls. Everyone was gone except a student manager and they didn't have a key to turn the lights on, so he went out there and took ground balls in the dark. That is how he is. There was a little bit of light from the soccer field and he had just enough light so that he could make out the ball. This is how badly he wants to play and how hard he works to be the best he can. Tiger fans are going to love this kid and embrace him. He plays with the same passion as a Mikie Mahtook as a shortstop."

On Raph Rhymes ...
"Raph Rhymes has quickly become one of my favorite players of all times. This kid never looked at his batting average. He never cared about his batting average. All he wanted to do was win. We counted on him unbelievably. He is such a vital part of our team; he didn't care about his average he just wanted to do his part to help us win. I think that is what the greatness of Raph is. The batting average is not the important thing. The important thing is that he does what it takes to help his team win. That is his attitude. I have never seen someone as unselfish as this young man. He totally doesn't care about his own accomplishments. All he cares about his taking this team to Omaha."

January 25, 2013


On the being ranked No. 3 in preseason poll...
"There's no pressure. Coach (Mainieri) tells us it just means we have to move up two spots to get to first place. It's no pressure. Preseason (rankings) don't mean anything. My freshman year we were preseason No. 1, and we didn't end up in the Top 25. Every day is a new game. We try to win every day. Just because we are No. 3 and (season-opening opponent) Maryland might not be ranked doesn't mean we get extra runs on the board. It's no different."

On how he wants his career at LSU to finish...
"A trip to Omaha, and bringing home a trophy; that's all I want. It doesn't matter how it happens. If something happens where I'm not even in the lineup and we go, I don't care. I want to go to Omaha. That's my dream. That's the reason I came here, to win a national championship."


On this year's team...
"This team works hard. They deserve to win. We are young, but the guys don't act young. If you come out and watch the way they work, you wouldn't know who's a freshman and who's a senior. It's been a lot of fun working with them in the fall and I'm looking forward to good things in the spring."

On coming back after hitting .431 last season to lead the nation...
"Last year was special. It was something you dream about. It was great for my family. I think I maybe ran into some luck along the way. Maybe I had some lucky charms in my cereal. Last year is something that's happened in the past. It was awesome. But this year I'm not worried about stats. I want to get this team to Omaha. I want the seniors to experience it, and I want the young guys to experience it. That's the main goal this year; to get to Omaha."


On his role this season...
"We are all competitive pitchers. Of course I want to be the (No. 1) guy. Either way whatever role Coach (Mainieri) puts me in I'm going to go out there and give everything I have on the mound, and put my team in the best chance to win."

On pitching coach Alan Dunn's impact on the staff...
"He brings a lot to the table for sure. The whole team loves him. I think the main thing he helps all of us with is the mental part of the game, setting guys up and our thought process. He's not a guy that's is going to change you, but if he sees something may need to be tweaked, he'll tell you to make an adjustment, and we go from there. He's a great guy to have on our team."

On the additions to the outfield...
"It's nice. (The outfielders) have a ton of speed out there. There is a handful of guys. It is going to be hard to pick three starters. Any guy you put out there can fly and cover a ton of ground. As a pitcher that's a huge asset." 


On the ending of last year's season in the Super Regional...
"It was a tough loss. But I really don't like to think of last year and use that as motivation. I like to just go into each game. Every game means something. Some people may use that as motivation. I personally won't use that as motivation. It was a tough loss, but we have to move forward."

On the team's attitude...
"I think we are all on the same page. I think we are all connected, and all looking for the same goal. I think that is going to be helpful. It's a long season. Everybody is going to stick together and make that push. I think it's going to work out like we want it to."  




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