Tigers’ good luck charm? Can of corn

As the LSU baseball team keeps collecting victories — the second-ranked Tigers have won a remarkable 35 of 38 games — an unusual contributor sits silently in the dugout.

It’s a can of corn.

Its label offers standard instructions for storage and preparation. But none of that matters to the Tigers. To them, the only relevant instructions were delivered by a Louisiana-based television star who happens to be a fan of the team.

The corn was a gift from Jase Robertson, who lives in West Monroe, but is nationally known thanks to the reach of reality TV. Robertson is featured on “Duck Dynasty,” a popular A&E show that follows his family and its business, Duck Commander, which markets duck calls and other hunting gear.

On Sunday, March 3, Robertson threw out the ceremonial first pitch before LSU played Nicholls State at Alex Box Stadium.

Wearing a camouflage outfit and black boots, he was quite a sight as he walked to the mound.

Robertson also wore a black beanie, but the cap was no match for his all-over-the-place piles of long, brown hair, which did whatever they wanted to do. Of course, for anyone
familiar with the TV show, it was all that wild hair, along with his oversized shaggy beard, that instantly identified him.

Robertson threw a decent ball to backup catcher Chris Chinea. He offered high-fives to LSU players. Then — standing at the top of the dugout steps — he gathered the team for a pep talk. That was when he held up his gift for all to see: a 29-ounce can of “Golden Sweet” whole kernel corn.

“We had no idea what was going on,” said first baseman Mason Katz, the senior slugger who is leading the Southeastern Conference with 60 RBIs.

Robertson started with a hunting lesson. He said that corn was the best “duck call” in the world, spreading it on the ground being the best way to bait a field and attract ducks. But he also stressed that it was illegal to do so.

With that in mind, Robertson suggested another purpose for the corn. He wanted the Tigers to use it for good luck.

His logic required a creative game of connect-the-dots: Nebraska is one of the top corn-producing states. Omaha is in Nebraska. The College World Series is in Omaha. And that is where LSU wants to finish its season by winning a national championship.

With a black Sharpie, Robertson wrote on the top of the can: “Back to Omaha!!”

He signed his name.

Then he issued oral instructions: Keep this with you for the rest of the season. Take it with you when you go to
Omaha. Then, once you win that national championship, all of you sign the can and bring it back to me.

The phrase “can of corn” has a long history in baseball, but it traditionally means something very different: an easy-to-catch fly ball. The Tigers were breaking new ground. This was the birth of Rally Corn.

A year after adopting a stuffed animal they named Mouton the Rally Monkey — and then coming up just one game short of making the 2012 College World Series — the Tigers were eager to embrace whatever help they could get.

Senior Joey Bourgeois, one of the best relief pitchers on the team, quickly volunteered for a role he never could have seen coming: keeper of the corn.

“I just knew I’d do a good job taking care of it,” Bourgeois said.

The corn generally stays in his locker.

When the Tigers play at home, Bourgeois carries the can into the dugout and places it in the helmet rack — always on its own shelf.

“Every time we come to bat, we see it, and it reminds us what we’re working toward,” freshman shortstop Alex Bregman said. “That can of corn represents everything we’re trying to do.”

Katz sees it as a reminder that personal goals are not important — that only “the ultimate team goal” of winning the national championship matters.

Some of the players do more than just look at the can. They also give it a quick touch for good luck.

“It has a little magic to it,” Bregman said. And he is certainly in a position to know — carrying a .424 batting average and tied for most hits in the nation (67).

“Sometimes, I’m just touching that can of corn and hoping it’ll give me a spark,” freshman outfielder Mark Laird said.

When the Tigers play on the road, Bourgeois packs the corn in his travel bag and finds a good spot for it in the team’s temporary dugout. He’s committed only one error. The evening of Tuesday, March 26, right before playing Tulane in New Orleans, Bourgeois realized he had forgotten the corn. He panicked. What if we don’t get the job done without the corn? Much to his relief, LSU won in a 14-1 blowout. The keeper of the corn was off the hook.

Bourgeois promises that the corn will not miss another game.

Coach Paul Mainieri gets a good laugh out of the whole thing.

“I’m not a believer in superstition, but my attitude is, why take a chance?” he said. “If having a can of corn in our dugout gives our players any added confidence, for whatever warped reason there might be, then I’m all for it.”