There are no traffic lights in Kade Scivicque’s hometown of Maurepas.
But there was one big figurative red light he had to run in order to get from that Livingston Parish hamlet of maybe 3,000 people to the top of the college baseball world.
No one from Maurepas had ever earned a scholarship to play baseball at a junior college, let alone a Division I school, let alone an elite program such as LSU, let alone reached the College World Series, all of which Scivicque has done.
Come Sunday afternoon, Scivicque will be behind the plate and in the middle of the Tigers’ batting order as they begin their quest for a seventh national championship at the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska.
“People told me all my life that I’d never be able to play college baseball,” Scivicque said. “It just put a little fuel to my fire and made me work harder, and I just dedicated myself more.”
Scivicque, who was born in Baton Rouge simply because Maurepas has the same number of hospitals as traffic lights, demonstrated he was more advanced than his peers from the time he started playing organized ball at age 4 alongside 7-year-olds on the Livingston Braves travel ball team.
There are so few kids playing recreation ball in Livingston Parish that no one is allowed to play up because that could leave some age groups without enough players to form a team.
“He was bored out there because he was a little bit more advanced,” Kade’s father, Steve, said, “so he stayed with travel ball.”
In travel ball, where Steve doubled as Kade’s coach, he was able to play up and did so every summer until he became a starter at Maurepas High at age 15.
Now, Ohio State likes to call itself The Ohio State University, but Maurepas High is literally The Maurepas High School, as in it’s the only one there.
But Steve estimates that during those summers and falls Kade played in upward of 1,000 games in travel ball, accelerating his development.
“Playing up made him play more to his potential,” his mother, Missy, said.
Along the way, Scivicque absorbed baseball in any way he could.
He’d bring a catcher’s mitt and play with a ball on the side at his older brother Nathan’s games.
When Nathan, who’s eight years older than Kade, had friends over to play in the yard, Kade would join in.
“He was better than some of the kids I played with,” Nathan said.
The two brothers would practice inside, Nathan pitching a tennis ball from one end of a hallway to Kade squatting at the other end some 40 feet away with a pillow serving as a chest protector as he honed his catching skills.
When he was still in preschool, Kade would sleep in his catcher’s gear.
“He wouldn’t go to sleep without it,” Steve said.
If Kade was watching TV, it probably meant a Houston Astros game was on. The family would make four or five trips to Houston each summer to watch them in person, and they would tape games so Kade would have something to watch in the offseason.
“Some kids watched cartoons,” Steve said. “He watched baseball.”
Scivicque was the Class B Outstanding Player as a high school senior and was chosen as the lone, mandatory Class B representative for the East team in the Louisiana High School Coaches All-Star Game.
East assistant coach Zach Smith from Class B Forest High School let head coach Kyle Achord from Catholic High know what kind of weapon he had in Scivicque.
“The 5A guys don’t know our players really well,” said Smith, who drove 200 miles from Forest to watch Scivicque and the Tigers host Louisiana-Lafayette in the Baton Rouge super regional last weekend.
Smith knew Scivicque well enough after watching him strike out 16 of his batters in a regular-season game before beating Scivicque and Maurepas in the semifinals of the playoffs even though Scivicque struck out 14 and had two of his team’s three hits.
Soon, everyone at the All-Star weekend, which features players from all classifications, knew who Scivicque was after he pitched and batted his way to MVP honors as the East swept two games from the West.
Scivicque received two scholarship offers while in high school — from Louisiana College and from Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, Mississippi. He chose the junior-college route, and the red light had become merely a detour sign.
“I felt like I could continue my success and continue to get better there, so I took that opportunity,” Scivicque said.
Scivicque’s play at Southwest called to mind Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” who accepted tips from appreciative patrons at a nondescript bar as they said, “Man, what are you doing here?”
Suddenly Scivicque was attracting attention from schools throughout the region, including multiple Southeastern Conference schools, but he already had started prefacing sentences with “when I play at LSU.”
Two of Scivicque’s travel-ball teammates were future Tigers teammates — outfielders Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird. It was the summer before they enrolled at LSU as freshmen and Scivicque was preparing for his final season at Southwest.
“The first day he showed up just hammering balls,” Stevenson said, “and I was like, ‘This guy can play.’ ”
“It seemed like he hit multiple home runs every weekend,” Laird said. “I thought, ‘This guy needs to go somewhere. Somebody has been missing out.’ ”
A few months later, Scivicque got a call from then-Tigers assistant Javi Sanchez, offering a scholarship. Shortly after the recruiting class arrived, coach Paul Mainieri said he felt Scivicque could be “the sleeper” in the class.
Scivicque was a sleeper, all right. He was a regular as a junior last season, splitting time with Tyler Moore and Chris Chinea at catcher and being the designated hitter at times.
Assistant coach Will Davis said anyone can see the progress Scivicque has made on the field, but he marveled at his comfort level at the highest level of college baseball.
“Being a leader, being vocal and being comfortable being here, not being a fish out of water amongst all these other guys that were high school All-Americans and Team USA guys,” Davis said, “he fits right in with all of them.”
LSU’s top two starting pitchers — freshman Alex Lange and sophomore Jared Poché — say they have complete confidence that if they throw a breaking ball in the dirt to try to get a strikeout, they won’t have to worry about it becoming a wild pitch.
“He blocks everything,” Lange said. “He gets pitches that are balls called strikes. He throws guys out, holds guys close on the bases. He’s the best catcher this nation has to offer. If he doesn’t win the Johnny Bench Award, I’d be shocked.”
Scivicque is one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, which goes to the top catcher in the country.
He got one of the biggest hits in last weekend’s super regional when he broke a scoreless tie with a solo homer in the seventh inning of Game 2 as the Tigers prevailed 6-3 to complete a sweep of the Ragin’ Cajuns.
So Scivicque’s improbable college career will end where every college player dreams of having their careers end — in the College World Series. Then it’s on to professional baseball after he was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round of the MLB draft Tuesday.
Back in Maurepas, Kade’s younger brother, Chaz, is preparing for his senior year in the fall. He said it has been “kind of unreal” seeing Kade play in Alex Box. “It kind of pushes you to try to meet his expectations,” said Chaz, who has followed in Kade’s footsteps on the baseball team.
Chaz has the attention of Southwest, where coach Ken Jackson has started using Kade’s success to recruit.
Kade said he can imagine a time when he’ll return to Maurepas High and encourage the students there to believe they too can get to wherever they want to go from there.
“Don’t give up, even though people tell you that you can’t do it,” Scivicque will tell them. “Just because you go to a small school doesn’t mean you can’t make a name for yourself.”
Especially since nowadays there’s a shining green light showing the way out of Maurepas.
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.