LSU Reloads Again
Tigers’ recruiting class stands out
By Aaron Fitt of Baseball America
November 19, 2009
Dan Canevari knows a little something about recruiting in the wake of a national championship. As an assistant under Skip Bertman, Canevari hit the recruiting trail shortly after Louisiana State won titles in 1997 and 2000. So he knew exactly what was in store for LSU recruiting coordinator David Grewe after the Tigers won their sixth national championship in June.
“He came into my office and said, ‘Hey, it’s a lot harder this year, isn’t it?’ ” Grewe said. “I said, ‘Yeah, it’s way harder.’ “
Conventional thinking suggests recruits should be knocking down the door after teams win the College World Series. Grewe said the reality is much different.
“A lot of coaches used it against us: ‘If you go to LSU you’re not going to play. Have you seen their team? They’re stacked,’ ” he said. “So I had to work harder to make kids understand where our program is at. This is the next phase of our program. This class will keep LSU at the elite level. After we won the national championship, I said, ‘We have got to meet every single need. We’ve got to recruit the best players in the country so they know we can win the national championship here and they know we’re turning to a new era here.’ “
That message has been delivered loud and clear. Louisiana State was perhaps the biggest winner from the early signing period, which began Nov. 11 and ended yesterday. The Tigers officially signed five members of Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects from the high school class of 2010, and they’ll have a sixth when the football team announces the commitment of two-sport star Zach Lee (No. 50).
Add in athletic outfielder Marcus Davis, who just missed the Top 100 cut; promising righthanders Josh Burris, Kurt McCune, and Ryan Eades; and physical two-way talent Kevin Koziol, and LSU’s class has the kind of quality depth that could rival its watershed 2007 crop. That class–head coach Paul Mainieri’s first in Baton Rouge–ranked second in the nation and served as the foundation for two Omaha teams.
“With the rules they have today, you can’t have cornerstone classes that take your program to the next level every year,” Grewe said. “The last two years have been good classes with several impact players, but this is the next group of LSU players. I personally think it’s as good as anybody in the country could have gotten.”
Of course, there is always risk when signing elite talents, a lesson that was reinforced this summer when top recruits Slade Heathcott, Zack Von Rosenberg and Brody Colvin signed pro contracts for a combined $4.1 million, decimating LSU’s recruiting class.
But Grewe said he feels good about LSU’s chances to sneak most of the players in this class through the draft and onto campus. It helps that the two highest-ranked players in the group–flamethrower Kevin Gausman (No. 7) and multi-talented infielder Garin Cecchini (15)–would both be draft-eligible as sophomores at LSU. It’s worth noting that the highest-drafted high player to attend college in 2009–Rangers first-rounder Matt Purke–will be draft-eligible as a sophomore at Texas Christian.
“If they get $2 million out of high school, I’ll tell them to take it,” Grewe said. “But I’ll try to convince them, ‘Hey, do you want to spend two years in minor league baseball or two years of minor league baseball at LSU?’ “
But even if the Tigers lose Gausman and Cecchini, their class should not lack for star power. Cam Bedrosian (28), the son of former big leaguer Steve Bedrosian, can reach 94 and throws a power breaking ball, but his control is still a work in progress. Smooth-swinging shortstop Jacoby Jones (38) has a skill set that evokes former LSU star D.J. LeMahieu, but he could be hampered in the spring by arm and labrum injuries suffered in football. And Austin Southall (81), a Baton Rouge native, gives this class a physical, powerful corner bat.
One thing they all have in common is that they’re all big-time LSU fans.
“We’re going to fill our team with players who want to be here and won’t worry about what position they play and where they bat in the lineup,” Grewe said. “I think that’s why last year’s team won a national championship–those were 35 kids that were diehard LSU boys.
“I’ll spend more time recruiting these kids now that they’ve signed with us than I will all the (high school underclassmen). We’ll educate the young kids, but we won’t mass recruit all the young kids. These kids are the ones I’ll spend the majority of our time recruiting, because they’re the future of LSU baseball.”
Tonight Larry Bowa and I will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. I would like to congratulate Larry on this great honor, and I would like to thank all the people who made this possible.
I grew up in Norristown, PA, which is just outstide of Philadelphia. I’ll never forget going to Shibe Park for the first time to watch an actual Major League game. I found out that the nuns were going to take the local crossing gaurds to see a Phillies game so I became a crossing gaurd.
I stood out in the cold snow, sleet and hail to help kids cross the street. Finally we go to the game and we saw the Phillies play the New York Giants. The nuns took five of us. I bought a program for 10c. Can you imagine a program costing only ten cents?
I also made up a book for autgraphs. In the old Shibe Park there was a twenty foot stretch where the visiting team players would have to walk with the fans to get back to the clubhouse. I asked one player for his autograph and he pushed me out of the way.
I was heartbroken. Major Leaguers were my heroes.
I looked up his number in the program and read his name: Buster Maynard.
Years later I was pitching in Sally League in South Carolina and the PA announcer said the next batter’s name: Buster Maynard.
That’s the rat who pushed me out of the way and wouldn’t give me an autograph!
He stepped into the box and with the first pitch I dumped him. He got up, brushed himself off and got back in the box. I dumped him again. He yelled at me to stop throwing at him, and with the third pitch he went down again, but this time when he got up he came charging out after me.
I cleaned his plow in the free-for-all.
After the game was over someone came to our clubhouse asking for Tom Lasorda. I wanted to know who it was and the person identified himself as Buster Maynard. I told him that I cleaned his plow on the field and that I’d do it again. But he didn’t want to fight. He just wanted to know why I was throwing at him.
I told him the story, and he couldn’t believe it. When I became the manager of the Dodgers I would tell my players the same story about old Buster with the moral being that if a kid asks for your autograph you better sign it because he may grow up and come back to get you.
Gary, who is the Dodger’s Midwest Scouting Supervisor, will be inducted into the Midwest Scouts Association Hall of Fame on November 7 and the Mid Atlantic Scouts Association Hall of Fame on November 14.
The 2009 season is Nickels’ 38th as a scout, and seventh in his current position. Notable current Dodgers drafted under his supervision include Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Scott Elbert, Blake DeWitt, Cory Wade, and A.J. Ellis. His scouting territory includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
The Midwest Scouts Association Hall of Fame induction will occur at the Midwest Scouts Association Banquet at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. He will be inducted along with Mike Radcliff of the Minnesota Twins and Bill Bryk of the San Diego Padres during the event’s dinner at 7:00 p.m.
The Mid Atlantic Scouts Association (MASA) Hall of Fame induction will take place at its annual banquet at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland. Nickels’ name will also be added to the Hall of Fame plaque which hangs permanently at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland.
Nickels worked for four clubs prior to joining the Dodgers in 2003. From 1999-2002, he served as the San Diego Padres’ Pro Scouting Director following nine years in Baltimore as the Orioles’ Scouting Director (1991-98) and Midwest Supervisor/Crosschecker (1989-90). He also was the Chicago Cubs’ Midwest Region Supervisor from 1982-88 and got his start in baseball as an Administrative Assistant, Scouting (1972-75) and Area Scout (1976-81) for the Philadelphia Phillies.