In a move that is beneficial to both parties, the LSU baseball team is getting a three-day weekend, and its skipper is taking full advantage.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri accepted an invite from Chicago Cubs front office executive Randy Bush to attend World Series Games 3 and 4 at Wrigley Field this weekend. Mainieri and Bush were college teammates at UNO.
Mainieri said he intended to give his players a long weekend anyway.
“First of all, we’ve been going hard and the guys, the gas tank is running a little dry right now,” Mainieri said. “We’re going to get an intersquad game in today (Wednesday) and tomorrow, then we’re going to get them three days off to recharge their bodies.”
Then Mainieri got the invitation from Bush, who was retained as assistant general manager when Theo Epstein took over as President of Baseball Operations in 2011.
“(Bush) really wanted me to be out there to share the experience with him as an executive, a chance to see something that hasn’t happened in 108 years,” Mainieri said. “I’m going to go up for Friday and Saturday’s games and come back Sunday, soak in a little bit of the atmosphere.”
Bush initially invited Mainieri and Ron Maestri, who coached Mainieri and Bush at UNO. But Maestri had a health issue and couldn’t attend, which opened the door for Mainieri’s youngest son, Tommy, to make the trip.
“It’s going to be a tremendous father/son experience,” Mainieri said. “My son and I used to go to Wrigley Field fairly often when I coached Notre Dame, and my best friend, Jim Hendry, was the general manager of the Cubs.”
This won’t be Mainieri’s first playoff experience at Wrigley Field.
He said he was sitting right by Hendry in the infamous Steve Bartman game, when the Cubs were five outs away from clinching a World Series berth before going on to lose the game and the series to the Florida Marlins.
He’s hoping for a better result this time for the Cubs, although he did say he would be rooting for one Cleveland Indian — reliever Jeff Manship, whom Mainieri coached at Notre Dame.
One thing Mainieri will not take part in this time around? He’s not going to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" over the stadium PA, which he’s done before.
“That was ugly,” Mainieri said. “I’ve tried to get YouTube to burn the video, but they haven’t. … That was an amazing experience to sing, with as bad a voice as I have, to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in front of 40,000 people and a national television audience. That’s a bucket list thing.”
Next week will mark the final week of fall practice for LSU.
Mainieri said the team would go through fundamental drills on Monday and Tuesday before playing in their traditional “Four Man” tournament Wednesday.
The team will conclude fall practice with the Purple and Gold World Series, which runs Thursday, Friday and Sunday this year. The team is not playing Saturday to avoid a conflict with the football game against Alabama.
Senior second baseman Cole Freeman did not practice Wednesday after tweaking his knee during a hit and run drill in Tuesday’s practice, and Mainieri said he’d be held out of Thursday’s practice as well.
Freeman will undergo an MRI on Friday to make sure there is no structural damage, but Mainieri is confident that the injury is not significant.
Former LSU All-American and current Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Mikie Mahtook was back in his old stomping grounds Wednesday.
Mahtook spent about half an hour chatting with LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro during batting practice.
Mahtook was the 31st overall selection in the 2011 MLB draft. He played in 65 games for the Rays last season, batting .195 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI.
He went through a rough 0-for-31 stretch at one point to drop his batting average to .132, but he rebounded to hit .278 over the final 25 games of the season.