Kim Mulkey called her son four or five days ago. As rumors swirled about the possibility she may leave Baylor after more than two decades and become LSU’s new women’s basketball coach, she talked to her son for over an hour. They weighed the pros and cons of each choice.
The next morning, Mulkey called back and told her son she planned to take the job at LSU. And so for nearly a week, Kramer Robertson dodged every inquiry into his mom’s final decision.
“It's been very difficult to keep it a secret,” Robertson said. “There's been literally a million people who asked me what's going on, trying to get insight. I couldn't say anything. I hated having to act like I didn't know what was going on. But I've known for a few days.”
Finally Sunday evening, LSU announced it hired Mulkey, a three-time national champion coach, Tickfaw native and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
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With the decision made public at last, Robertson burst, writing on his Twitter account, “Hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep in my life... GEAUX TIGERS!!!” He'll fly Monday to Baton Rouge for Mulkey's introductory press conference at 5 p.m. inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
As you probably know, Robertson played baseball for LSU. He struggled his freshman and sophomore years then starred as an upperclassman, becoming one of the program’s most beloved players in the last decade. Now his mom will coach at the school he nearly led to the 2017 national championship.
“It's honestly so exciting,” Robertson said. “It's emotional leaving a place that's been so good to you for the last 20 years. I know my mom's emotional about it. But timing is everything, and she feels like this is the right time and this is the right move. Louisiana is home to her.”
Robertson spoke late Sunday from a hotel across the street from Busch Stadium. As one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ players at its alternate site, Robertson has trained daily inside the ballpark, waiting in case the major league club suddenly needs another player. He starts the minor league season May 4 in AAA.
Hours after the announcement, Robertson didn’t want to talk about himself. He preferred to highlight his mom, a woman who he said always put him and his sister first in the midst of her 21-year career at Baylor, a coach who became the fastest in Division I history to reach 600 wins.
“She's everything to me,” Robertson said. “She's a mother, first and foremost, but at the same time, she's my voice of confidence when I need somebody to be there for me. She was there when I needed somebody to kick me in the ass. She was able to play every role.”
When Robertson considered transferring after his sophomore year — he owned a career .211 batting average and coach Paul Mainieri left him off the 2015 College World Series roster — Mulkey spoke to her son.
“‘If you're not good enough to play there, then go,’” Robertson remembered his mom saying, “‘But if you feel you're good enough, then work your ass off and show everybody the player that you are.’”
Yes, LSU fans, it's really happening: Kim Mulkey is returning to Louisiana.
Robertson stayed. The next season, he batted .324 as the starting shortstop. Then he returned for his senior year, batted .307, led the nation in runs scored with 85, smacked eight home runs and guided LSU to a runner-up finish at the CWS. The Cardinals drafted him in the fourth round.
Looking back, Robertson called Mulkey “part of my main decision in going back for that junior year."
“She motivated me,” Robertson said. “She's always been that person. But more than just the coach or the motivator that she is, she's always a mother. She's always put me first.
"Every decision she's ever made was putting me or my sister or her grandkids first. I think that's what people don't understand the most about her. She's such a family person. She puts so many people before herself.”
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As his mom mulled what to do last week, Robertson stayed quiet. People called and texted him to express their excitement. He usually responded, “Look, if it happens, I'm excited, too. I hope it happens.” At one point, former LSU teammate Chris Reid simply posted a picture on social media of Robertson. He noticed and scrolled past.
“Even though I knew it was happening,” Robertson said, “I couldn't say anything.”
Now that he can, Robertson wants all the attention on Mulkey. Throughout his college career, television cameras pointed to her cheering in the stands whenever he batted, fielded a ball or turned a double play. “Did you know Kramer's mom is Kim Mulkey, the women's basketball coach?” became a running joke.
Their family always wished the cameras focused on Robertson in those days instead of his mom. With Mulkey now the one on LSU’s court and Robertson watching, he hopes "Did you know Kim Mulkey's son played baseball at LSU?" doesn't replace the other comment.
"I hope they respect her and show what she's done and all her accomplishments," Robertson said. "They don't need to show me in the stands."