OMAHA, Neb. — Cole Freeman was minding his own business in the LSU locker room when his double-play partner, Kramer Robertson, burst through the doors muttering to himself.
This was between innings, about midway through LSU’s first super regional game against Mississippi State. To that point, Robertson was not having a great day. He hustled to his locker with purpose.
A little earlier, Robertson came to the plate with a runner at third base and one out. He hit what amounted to a swinging bunt down the third-base line, which resulted in Michael Papierski being caught in no-man’s land for an easy out at third, wrecking a golden scoring opportunity.
“He was all frustrated after he hit that ball to third,” Freeman said. “He kept going over that at-bat — ‘That was so bad, that was so bad.’ ”
A couple hours earlier, during batting practice, Robertson was asking teammates for their opinions. Which shoes he should wear for the nationally televised game?
LeBron James had a great game the night before in the NBA Finals, Robertson thought. Should I honor him? Kevin Durant had a better year and series, though, so Robertson thought he would be a good option too.
The Michael Jordans, though — they were off-limits. The Jordans are championship shoes.
This was the worst road trip of Kramer Robertson’s life.
Robertson decided to go with the LeBron James' signature shoes — all white with a thick strap over the laces. But they weren’t working that night. He changed into a special pair he was holding for a different day.
“It usually works,” Robertson said of his midgame footwear changes. “If I come in and change shoes or change wristbands, anything like that, just little things. Little weird baseball things that I do.”
When Robertson led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a walk, he gestured wildly toward the dugout to get them fired up. On his feet were his custom-made size 11½ Jordan 11s.
He looked stylish when he wheeled around the bases to score in those white and black cleats. That was the first of four runs LSU scored in that inning in a game the Tigers eventually won 4-3.
The mantra? Look good, feel good, play good.
Robertson already knows what he’s wearing for Saturday’s CWS opener against Florida State.
LSU is wearing its all-white uniform combination, which means Robertson is going with his nearly all-white Jordan 1s.
“I love white cleats,” Robertson said.
This combo was planned out well before LSU got on a plane for Omaha. For almost as long as he can remember, Robertson has been particular about what he wears. Outfits need to match, and they need to stand out.
That is why Robertson wears basketball shoes — actual basketball shoes — on the baseball field. They’re fashionable. They pop.
“They’re Kramer,” Freeman said.
“It’s a good way to put it,” he said. “It’s just Kramer. It’s just me. They’ve all come to know that I like to look good or at least feel like I look good.”
Robertson first caught wind of the customized cleats on social media, seeing several major leaguers rocking Jordans on the baseball field. So he looked into it and found his guy.
Robertson goes through customcleats.com, sending $100 along with some of his favorite basketball shoes to a man in New York. When he gets them back, they have spikes on the bottom, and they’re ready for a baseball diamond.
He first did it last year with a set of Nike Hyper Dunks — all of his customized cleats have to be Nike or Jordan brand because of the school’s apparel deal with Nike.
“If we weren’t Nike, I might do something real crazy, man,” Robertson said. “I might get some Yeezy cleats or something like that, some Chuck Taylors. You never know. In pro ball, you never know what I might pull out.”
He liked the way the basketball shoes felt, and he liked the way they looked. Now, he estimates his collection has grown to roughly 25 pairs.
“I like shoes. I like to have good swag, I guess,” Robertson said. “It just started, and once it started I just kept it going. I kept sending in my favorite basketball shoes, and that’s really all it is.”
His shoe habit goes well beyond the field.
Robertson’s favorite pair? A pair of snakeskin Christian Louboutin shoes, complete with a gold toe box that's adorned with spikes.
“They’re very loud — and they’re very Kramer,” Robertson said. “I like loud; I like unique; I like gold.”
He wore those to Thanksgiving at coach Paul Mainieri’s house once. The reaction was priceless.
“He was like, ‘What the hell are those?’ ” Robertson said.
Robertson had to fill in the coach on shoe culture, letting him know that his wife, Karen, would instantly recognize the brand.
“(Mainieri) went to New York during Christmas break,” Robertson said. “I told him what they were, and his wife (Karen) knew what they were, and I was like, ‘You need to buy your wife a pair,’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, Paul, buy me a pair.’ ”
In December, Robertson woke up to a text from Mainieri giving him the thumbs-up in front of the Christian Louboutin store.
The swag has a tendency to rub off.
Robertson is particular about his pregame routine. He needs to wear a certain number of tights underneath his uniform. He needs to have a certain undershirt and a certain arm sleeve, and his uniform needs to be tucked in just so.
And his shoes? As clean as can be. A can of Scrubbing Bubbles is at the ready.
“Before every game, I get the Scrubbing Bubbles and get them as clean as I can,” Robertson said. “Then I have the tape on the shoe if I’m wearing pants down, so the pants stay over the shoe. Occasionally I’ll go pants-up. When I first got the LeBrons and the Jordan ones, I wore the pants up so they stood out a little bit more.”
Then? It’s showtime.
“You wouldn’t believe how much my Twitter blows up after a TV game — especially if I’m wearing the (Jordan) 11s,” Robertson said. “I didn’t think people would notice or it would blow up.
“It’s not like I’m worried about what shoes I’m wearing more than how I perform. I don’t notice them in the game. I just like to feel good as I go into the game.”
But there is certainly some degree of attention-seeking. Robertson is a showman, and the shoes are part of the act.
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But the important thing is that he’s not a scrub playing baseball in basketball shoes.
“He knows how to get his name out there, but the biggest thing is his play,” Freeman said. “You can’t do all this and not perform, and he’s performed with the best of them.
“I think the coolest thing is, in the biggest games, he does step up. That’s why he’s respected by so many of our teammates and people around the league."
Even if he has to switch shoes in the bottom of the fourth.