The camera immediately panned to Kim Mulkey, the Baylor women’s basketball coach and mother of LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson.
Because, of course, the camera panned to Kim Mulkey. It always pans to Kim Mulkey.
When Robertson bashed a double to the right-center gap Tuesday, the face that popped onto your television screen was, none other than, Kim Mulkey, in the crowd, cheering, her balled fists raised into the air in celebration.
When Robertson fully extended for a diving grab in the second, it was more Kim Mulkey. A single through the right side, Kim Mulkey. A homer over the left field wall earlier this week, Kim Mulkey. A charging groundout or a double play, Kim Mulkey and Kim Mulkey.
“She’s tried hiding,” Robertson said, “but they’re going to find her. I’ve told her maybe she should come in disguise or something.”
This story isn’t about Kim Mulkey. And that’s just how she wants it. Write about my son, she’d say – not me.
Her son accomplished an impressive trio Tuesday during LSU’s 5-2, regional championship win over Rice at Alex Box Stadium. He saved two runs with that wild diving play in short left field, knocked home two runs with that double and executed a textbook hit-and-run that began the Tigers’ rally from a 2-0 deficit in the seventh inning.
Oh, no, this story isn’t about Kim Mulkey. It’s about her scrappy son, a guy who wasn’t even on LSU’s active postseason roster last year at this time, a kid who’s moved from reserve to team leader in less than a year.
“MVP. All-American,” LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro said following the Tigers’ victory.
In LSU’s four regional games, Robertson hit .571. He was 8-for-14 with three RBI. He landed on the NCAA Baton Rouge regional all-tournament team, something the public address announcer boomed over the Alex Box speakers during Tuesday’s post-game, on-field celebration.
The crowd serenaded Robertson with roars, and he raised his hand in acknowledgement as he walked toward the outfield – the caboose in LSU’s traditional, hand-slapping, back-patting victory lap around the park.
He held a sign a fan gave him during that march.
“Have no fear,” it read. “Kramer is here.”
Where was Kim Mulkey? She raced to catch a charter flight back to Texas, gone so her son could get the attention. That’s been a rarity at times this season.
ESPN’s cameras love to focus on the championship-winning women’s hoops coach. Whether it’s from her cushy seat behind Alex Box’s home plate or among the purple-and-gold clad road crowd, they find her. They always, always find her.
“I don’t mind them talking about her,” Robertson said. “I think there’s a point where it’s overdone. Show her occasionally. I think … if I hit a home run, show me. You don’t have to show her the whole time. I’m definitely proud I’m her son. I wouldn’t be the player and have the mindset I have without her.”
Often times after a game, Robertson will return to the locker room, pick up his phone and there they are – tweets and texts from friends and family regarding mom’s face time.
“She doesn’t ask for it. I don’t ask for it. It’s just because of who she is. She’s a well-known public figure,” Robertson said. “It’s the same thing for Peyton Manning and Eli Manning’s dad (Archie). It’s out of our control.
“I just try to be the best player I can and have people notice me for what I do and respect for what I do and not just think of me as her son,” he said before entering a rocking LSU locker room. “If it was up to her, I don’t think she’d be shown one time this whole year. I’m not upset because I am proud to be her son, but there’s a fine line when you overdo it.”
She fled the scene too quickly Tuesday for an interview but later texted a reporter, specifically regarding her son’s hit-and-run in the seventh inning, a rally-sparking play in a three-run frame. Robertson swatted at a head-high fastball, knocking it through the right side and moving Jake Fraley from first to third.
“Tomahawk chop,” Mulkey wrote in a text.
Five innings before that play, Robertson extended for what would have been a two-run double, catching the ball and then bouncing off the turf with a celebratory upper cut into the humid Louisiana evening.
“He prevented two more runs in the second inning with that diving play,” said Rice coach Wayne Graham, “and he had to go a long way to get it and then he set up that whole thing with the hit-and-run and then drove a run in later. He was the key player in the game.”
His last splash came in the eighth – a two-run, two-out double to end the scoring.
Guess what happened after?
The camera panned to Kim Mulkey. Robertson shakes it off. In fact, he brought up his own mother, unprompted, during the post-game news conference.
“Everyone always wants to know, ‘What does your mom tell you? What kind of motivation does she give you?’” he said. “She’s told me since I was a young kid that if you want to be a big-time player, you have to make big-time plays in big-time games.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.