In some respects, it’s almost like nothing has changed for Alex Lange.
On August 21, the first day of LSU’s fall semester, Lange rose early and went to class, just like he has done on the first day of class for the past 3½ years.
The rhythm remained. It felt like he was coming off his usual summer break. It was only two months ago he was wearing an LSU jersey in Omaha, Nebraska, and it’s not like he has to make a different group of friends.
It was an eventful summer, though. It may feel like nothing’s changed now, but much has. There is an element to this all that feels a little weird for Lange.
“I walk around campus and I’m like, ‘Man, they’re having a team meeting at 3 o’clock,’ ” Lange said. “And 3:15 comes around and I’m like, ‘I probably should’ve been at the field…’ Oh, nope, guess not.”
Lange, now, is a millionaire. The 30th overall pick in June’s Major League Baseball draft is a member of the Cubs organization. He is no longer tethered to the LSU baseball program.
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But, there was unfinished business at LSU. He is 15 credit hours shy of receiving a degree in marketing, and he aims to rectify that this fall before his pro career takes off.
“I don’t see, in the future, (graduating) being possible for a very long time,” Lange said. “This looked to be the window to get it done.”
Like Lange, Anthony Ranaudo is a former ace right-hander on the LSU pitching staff who is back on campus working toward a degree, his in sports administration.
Unlike Lange, Ranaudo recently realized he first arrived on campus as a student a decade ago. Where Lange’s career has all the promise of something new, Ranaudo’s is marked more by its uncertainty at the moment.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old is making his fourth return trip to Baton Rouge to work on his unfinished course work. He returned before in the fall of 2013, and again for winter session in 2015 and ’16.
This time, he arrived in Baton Rouge at a crossroads in his career. He spent last season playing professionally in Korea, before a line drive hit his throwing hand and broke it, ending his season.
Perhaps it ended his career? Ranaudo is not sure yet. But he does know two things: he’s excited by the uncertainty of what is next, and he has a decade-old promise to keep.
“I made a promise to my mom and grandma when I was 17 and left for college that, no matter what happens in professional baseball, that I would finish my degree,” Ranaudo said.
Lange and Ranaudo are here working toward the same end. The different trajectories of their careers, at this point, help explain why they think that end is important.
When Lange signed his pro contract with the Cubs, his agent got it written into the contract that Lange could cut this season short in order to return to Baton Rouge and finish his course work.
It was all about time frames. It’s near impossible to align the hectic schedule of a professional baseball player to that of a full-time college student. Lange saw it in his immediate future and did not want to let this opportunity lag.
“I’m bidding for a fall league spot next year, maybe,” Lange said. “So it’s just a lot of stuff that is unfolding next year. This seemed to be the perfect time. Get a couple innings, come back, finish the degree, then I can really focus.”
Focus on what he hopes is a long and prosperous career, that is, one where he can put that marketing degree he is earning this fall to good use.
But Lange is taking the long view. Even if that best case scenario plays out and Lange retires after a lengthy career … then what? He’ll be in his late 30s with an entire life to lead.
Lange interned at Traction Sports last year, a business run by former LSU baseball standout Ryan Theriot. He saw Theriot, 37 years old, working with purpose. It got him thinking about his own future.
“It’s just a first career, baseball,” Lange said. “It’s not going to last you until you’re 65, it’s not possible — unless you get into the coaching side of things, which is even slimmer pickings than just playing.
“It’s important to have the foundation moving forward, for me, after baseball. You’ve got to start planning now, because if you don’t start planning now, you’re screwed.”
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Ranaudo’s long view is not as clearly defined.
“I don’t really know what’s going to happen moving forward in my baseball career,” Ranaudo said. “I’ve always thought that I’ve always wanted to have a degree.
“I’m actually excited. I’m not sure what I want to do after baseball yet, but I know I’m excited for that chapter of my life.”
That isn’t to say baseball is done for Ranaudo, but for a moment he thought it might have been.
The line drive that broke his hand this year could’ve been worse — Ranaudo was about to be drilled below the belt before he jerked himself out of the way, putting his throwing hand in harm’s way instead.
It broke his fifth metacarpal and capped what Ranaudo called “an up-and-down season in Korea.”
A groin injury derailed the start of his season, pushing his Korean baseball debut back to May 24 (his Samsung Lions club opened its season April 22). When he finally took the mound, he didn’t meet his own expectations, compiling a 6.80 ERA over 11 starts before he broke his hand.
“It wasn’t a very pretty season, but I think the Korean team is interested in signing me back,” Ranaudo said. “I don’t necessarily know what the next step is. If they don’t sign me, I’m hopeful I have an opportunity here in America.
“I really am excited for the next chapter here in my life. I thought of just being done with baseball when this injury happened, but I think I’m going to let the rehab process kind of work itself out and see where I’m at after my hand heals, kind of re-assess.”
While his hand heals, he’s back in Baton Rouge taking classes. It’s putting a positive, constructive spin on an unfortunate set of circumstances.
Instead of sitting at home spending his time idly, he’s chipping away at the roughly two semesters of credit hours he has left to complete. He is even getting some help along the way from the LSU baseball team’s academic counselor, Kristen DeFusco.
“She’s been huge,” Ranaudo said.
It’s a bit of an odd sensation, being almost 10 years older than most of the freshmen on campus.
He’s a grown man with real life experience now, having used the game to see the world. With that has come security and maturity. School is easier now.
“You understand how important some of this information and some of the things you’re learning are to you,” Ranaudo said.
Lange’s baseball career is just beginning. Ranaudo’s, possibly, has reached its end. Both are preparing for life after baseball, whether it comes next year or in 20 years, because it’s going to come.
“The page does turn,” Lange said. “It does for everybody, that’s just the way it goes.”
And when it does?
“I want to be the most qualified person I can be once that day comes,” Ranaudo said.
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