Wally Pontiff Sr. estimated he has received 200 phone calls over the last few months with people on the other end all asking the same question: what happened to the annual LSU game in his son’s name?
In honor of Wally Pontiff Jr., an infielder who helped LSU win a national championship and died at 21 years old, the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic had been played every year since 2004.
The neutral site event matched LSU against another in-state team, giving fans in New Orleans a chance to watch the team Pontiff Jr. loved, but the game wasn’t scheduled this season for the first time, another event erased by the coronavirus pandemic.
Who's starting, how to watch and what to watch for as LSU plays ULM.
“We didn't even ask,” Pontiff said. “I was more interested in hoping LSU could keep playing this year. I wasn't thinking about Wally's game as much as I was thinking about the kids that go to LSU and play in the great college atmosphere.”
Already, the game had moved last year after the New Orleans Baby Cakes left town, creating uncertain field conditions at the Shrine on Airline. LSU agreed to host the game at Alex Box Stadium on March 24, 2020, against Tulane. Then it was canceled because of the coronavirus, along with the rest of the season.
“It really knocked us for a loop a little bit when it didn't come through,” Pontiff Sr. said.
LSU had a chance to win its second consecutive series last weekend against South Carolina, but with LSU leading 2-0 in the final frame of a seven-inning game, it struggled once again to record the last three outs.
While LSU resumed play this spring, Pontiff didn’t want to bother LSU as it figured out how to navigate a season still mired in the pandemic. The game required three months of preparations, and at the beginning of the season, questions swirled about capacity and schedules.
“We weren't even sure what we were going to have for fans for the games,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I think with the pandemic and the protocols and everything else, I never even really discussed it with the administration.”
Neither did Pontiff. The Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation had wanted to see how the game went when staged another another location, and without full capacity, it wouldn't have made much money for the foundation, which supports various organizations and baseball teams.
“There was no discussion,” Pontiff said. “I didn't want them to worry about us. They've been awesome to us.”
Three thoughts and observations from LSU's weekend series loss to South Carolina, in which the Tigers were on the brink of a second straight S…
And so another year passed without the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic, an event that for more than a decade brought together thousands of people to remember the man former LSU coach Skip Bertman called “everybody's All-American.”
Pontiff hopes the game will resume next year, ideally once stadiums can host full capacities. He intends to meet with the board of the family's foundation next month to discuss the game's future.
"It's been a great run," Pontiff said. "Hopefully we can continue it."