East: Ex-LSU star Theriot knows what it takes

By LES EAST

Advocate sportswriter

LSU coach Paul Mainieri picked the right keynote speaker for the Tigers First Pitch Banquet when he invited Ryan Theriot to speak Thursday night.

It’s not just because Theriot is a former LSU star and Baton Rouge native and resident who spoke as eloquently about life as he did about baseball. It’s also because he represents all that the 2013 Tigers aspire to be.

As LSU prepares to open the season next Friday against Maryland in Alex Box Stadium, no word comes out of the mouths of Tigers more frequently than Omaha, as in the city in Nebraska that hosts the College World Series every June.

It has been three years since LSU has been to Omaha, four years since the Tigers won the CWS, which seems like a lifetime to a program that won six championships and visited Omaha 15 times in the last 27 years.

Mainieri called the three-year absence “ridiculous”, adding “I’m so tired of not going to Omaha.”

Falling one victory short last season only intensifies the Omaha obsession.

Theriot has been to Omaha, scoring the winning run as the Tigers won the 2000 title.

He has a couple of other rings as well, having been a member of the last two Major League World Series champions — the 2011 Cardinals and the 2012 Giants.

Theriot scored the winning run in the bottom of the 10th as San Francisco completed a four-game sweep of Detroit last November. He’s believed to be the only player to have scored the winning run in the final inning of both the World Series and the CWS, in addition to being the only LSU alumnus to win a World Series with two different teams.

“And,” former LSU coach Skip Bertman said in introducing Theriot, “it ain’t over yet.”

Theriot spoke about his evolution to understanding “true success”, something he now gauges through his wife and three children more than statistics.

As for these Tigers, he said, “It’s not about winning every game, it’s about being the person you need to be to win championships.”

Some time soon, some major league team will figure out the only player to be a part of the last two World Series champions is a person they need.

Theriot said his agent is talking to “plenty of teams” and reports say several of them are perceived championship contenders, including the reigning champions.

Wherever Theriot winds up, he’ll proudly sport purple and gold as well as his LSU shower shoes and toothbrush he has taken with him to clubhouses in Chicago and Los Angeles in addition to his last two stops.

And when LSU plays in the postseason, Theriot will be prepared to “yell and talk trash all day.”

“During the College World Series,” Theriot said, “it gets pretty intense in some of those clubhouses.”

He said the most overlooked factor in championship teams is “chemistry,” something he senses these Tigers have.

Speaking for himself and his fellow alumni, Theriot told this year’s team that when the Tigers play “don’t think we’re not watching.”