When an athlete has the chance to work with his idol, great things can come of it. But, when that idol is also your best friend, former teammate and practically your brother, remarkable happens.
The relationship between LSU first baseman Mason Katz and former LSU standout Mikie Mahtook evolved from teammates to brothers over the course of Katz' tenure on the team. Just like a younger brother, Katz studied how his big brother played throughout his career at LSU.
And just like a big brother, Mahtook prepared his younger brother for a breakout junior season.
"Mikie was here for the whole beginning of the season and he's taught me about certain pitches, certain counts and what to look for," said Katz " Hitting in front of Mikie last year helped me learn a lot, and that's what I'm trying to bring in to this year."
The Harahan, La. native has definitely brought it. His season is off to a bang, currently leading the team in home runs. Two weeks ago, Katz was one shy of tying the NCAA record of 18 for reaching base in consecutive plate appearances, and he earned a National Player of the Week nod for his performance.
"It was pretty incredible. We all had fun with it, Beau Didier made me give him 18 claps before the game so I could hit 18," said Katz. "I'm happy with where I ended up. I think everything happens for a reason, I didn't break it, and I'm sure there's a good reason for that."
Katz has rapidly developed into an offensive threat for the Tigers in the last two years, coming off of a sophomore season with a batting average of .337 and finishing fifth in the SEC with a team-best 21 doubles. He also earned second-team All-SEC honors for his efforts as an outfielder.
In the summer of 2011, Katz had the opportunity to play in the esteemed Cape Cod League. He batted .272 with nine doubles, one triple, three homers and 18 RBI, and was tabbed a Cape Cod League All-Star.
Katz's stats are undeniable, and his performance in Alex Box wows thousands, but his leadership behind the scenes is even more impressive. The junior prides himself on his work ethic, treating each practice like a game and striving to never leave the field unprepared.
"I know every day that I come out here, I'm prepared and I never want it weighing on me that I didn't work hard enough. So, I come out and play 100%, whether I go 0-for-5 or 5-for-5," said Katz.
This work ethic defines Katz as a leader, as he prefers to lead by example rather than vocally. He enjoys being a guy that younger players can look up to and teammates can count on. Head coach Paul Mainieri applauds Katz for his development on the team and stepping up to fill that role as a junior.
"He really epitomizes what we want from our baseball program," Mainieri said. "He's very mature, cares about the right things, and provides a great example for the rest of the team. He clearly is a leader for this team, and he's a guy that it all starts with."
Katz steps to the plate with the No. 8 on his jersey this year, continuing the legacy that Mahtook left as motivation to help bring the team to Omaha. Last year, Mahtook approached Katz about wearing No. 8 for his junior season, and it was an offer that he simply could not refuse.
"It was a true honor for him to pick me out of everyone," Katz said. "I love the way he played the game. I try to play the game like he did, always hard, 100%, and he saw that in me. I could never say no."
From brother to brother, the torch has been passed, and Katz looks forward to leading the way.