Scooter Hobbs column: LSU’s road no longer starts in Baton Rouge

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

You’ll have to forgive Jay Johnson.

He isn’t from around here and he’s in his first year as the Tigers’ head baseball coach.

Maybe he didn’t get the memo.

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The dirty little secret probably wasn’t mentioned when LSU was wooing him to Baton Rouge from Arizona to replace retiring Paul Mainieri after last season.

So he was happy as could be when he learned the Tigers would be heading to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, this weekend for the NCAA regional hosted by Southern Miss.

Keep in mind that his newly inherited fan base considers it a spring-to-summer rite that there will be regional baseball in Alex Box Stadium come late May, early June.

Heavy-duty tailgating, too.

But that’s not the worst of it.

No LSU baseball season is a success, or even complete, when it does not end up in Omaha for the College World Series.

Sorry. But thems the rules. Skip Bertman made them. Every LSU coach since has to follow them. Could be worse. There was a time when the Tigers didn’t dare show their faces back home without the national championship trophy in hand.

And it would appear perhaps LSU, which has made 18 trips to Omaha, doesn’t know the way anymore.

There’s a very large map that takes up the better part of one wall in the LSU team meeting room. It maps out the route from Baton Rouge to what fans refer to as “Alex Box North” in Omaha.

It appears Google maps suckered them in. The inspirational highlighted route route takes you up through Natchez and Rayville and Bastrop and who knows where all in Arkansas before finally meandering over to Kansas City for the stretch run.

Never mind that this Road to Omaha should only be gazed upon from a jet airliner, which the NCAA will pay for should the Tigers need transportation.

If you have to drive it, though, I’d think aiming toward the Shreveport way station would be the judicious choice.

But the point is well taken. For LSU, the “road” or perhaps “liftoff” is from Baton Rouge.

Has anyone told Johnson that the on-to-Omaha dogpile for LSU has not been staged anywhere but The Box since 1989, when the Tigers won at No. 1-ranked Texas A&M twice in one day en route?

It’s never happened in the current regional-super regional format that began in 1999.

“I love doing things that have never been done before,” Johnson said.

OK, if you look at it, Hattiesburg seems to be as good a detour as any LSU could have hoped for.

“My (Arizona) teams have gotten to Omaha entirely from the road, and they gotten to Omaha from our home stadium,” he said. “So I know it can be done both ways.”

Don’t stop him. He’s on a roll.