Final ride with the LSU skipper
The clicking noise of chalk against the blackboard was the only audible sound that filled the room.
Writing notes and engaging with the lesson had long passed as 24 sets of eyeballs glued themselves to the hands of their new liberator: the clock. The instructor, realizing that he had lost the attention of his law studies class, placed his chalk in the dusty tray and reclined in his seat without a word.
Minutes later, a garbled voice echoed across the intercom system. The disembodied intonation prattled through a list of announcements before finally arriving at the words that were at the source of the tension.
“Seniors,” the voice said, “you are dismissed.”
A stampede ensued as hundreds of newly minted high school graduates stormed outside to greet the cloudless April day and the shining rays of their new freedom.
The specific details of that moment may be unique to my school, but the final crescendo of a high schooler’s senioritis is universal to almost every American.
Even for those that may have not had a traditional high school experience, every human on Earth has anticipated a moment of graduation away from something old and toward something new.
Years later, we look back on our former station in life with an appreciation that we previously lacked. We realize that the times we may have complained about in the past weren’t all that bad in reality.
However, the days that have passed us by may only live in our memories. The curtain cannot be raised once it has finally fallen.
LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri is not graduating from high school, but his recent announcement to retire does signal a curtain call on a significant era in Tiger baseball history.
By any objective measure, Mainieri’s 15 years spent in the purple and gold should be labeled as a massive success despite what the burner accounts that his haters hide behind spew on Twitter.
One could argue that Mainieri has only had 12 viable seasons to field a nationally competitive team since the 2020 season was canceled due to the global pandemic and the 2007 team lacked any infrastructure to be successful thanks to the previous coach.
In those 12 seasons Mainieri took his LSU teams to the College World Series five times or 42% of the time.
Of those five trips to the CWS, his teams made it to the championship series twice, or 40% of the time with his greatest on-field accomplishment being the 2009 national championship.
I could rattle off his various NCAA regional, super regional, and Southeastern conference championships. I could include how LSU dominated the SEC Tournament in Mainieri’s tenure where he tied the conference record for tournament wins by a head coach, but that would all be overkill.
It also wouldn’t be among his most impressive accomplishments. That I would assume is reserved for the lives of the players and managers that he has had a positive impact on or the class with which he represented the University.
National titles do not grow on trees and neither do coaches like Mainieri.
Yet in the midst of complaining about a poor coaching decision here or a missed opportunity there, some of us have missed out on a time that fans will undoubtedly look back on fondly.
During his retirement press conference, Mainieri mentioned the Saxon White Kessinger poem “Indispensable Man” which espouses the idea that no person is irreplaceable. While it’s true that the LSU baseball program will continue to excel in the future without Mainieri as the coach, it’s also a fact that the program is better today because of his leap of faith to take the reins in Baton Rouge.
That leap has not quite reached its conclusion. The 2021 season is not yet finished.
The final bell may be ringing on Mainieri’s time, but the diploma has not been handed out.
Take the opportunity to enjoy the final sprint out the classroom Tiger fans. Life’s too short for the alternative.