LSU newcomer Cannizaro savors Tulane memories

Andy Cannizaro has plenty to be proud of in baseball.

He was a scout for the New York Yankees.

He was a two-time All-American at Tulane, and he had two brief stints in the major leagues.

Above them all, though, stands one moment: the 2001 NCAA super regional win over LSU, a series victory that sent the Green Wave and its starting shortstop, Cannizaro, to the College World Series.

“To this day, that weekend at Zephyr Field against LSU is probably one of my best memories in baseball,” Cannizaro said.

He’s on the other side now.

LSU officially introduced Cannizaro as its new recruiting coordinator and hitting coach Monday afternoon, welcoming a guy who coach Paul Mainieri said is “the greatest player in Tulane baseball history.”

That will “probably stir up a little bit of controversy with the Tulane faithful,” Mainieri quipped.

This rivalry received a jolt this week.

Cannizaro replaces Javi Sanchez, who plans to leave coaching.

Sanchez was at Monday’s news conference, an event that served a few purposes: an introduction to Cannizaro, a goodbye to Sanchez and a celebration of LSU’s 2014 signing class.

The 11-freshmen group is ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to Perfect Game. Mainieri calls the class “special” and “amazing” and touts it as maybe the best he’s ever reeled in at LSU.

The crew of signees is Sanchez’s “lasting legacy” with the Tigers, Mainieri said.

Cannizaro now steps into the shoes of Sanchez. Cannizaro’s salary was not immediately available. Sanchez made a base salary of $125,000.

Recruiting is nothing new for Cannizaro, a guy who wanted to enter the college coaching world. The 35-year-old father of two spent the past five years with the Yankees.

In fact, Cannizaro often ran into Sanchez on the road — Cannizaro evaluating talent for the Yankees; Sanchez recruiting talent for LSU.

“All of these guys up here … I’ve seen every one of them,” Cannizaro said, pointing to eight freshmen at Monday’s press conference.

But coaching? That’s another thing.

Mainieri will remain working with LSU’s infield, and volunteer assistant Will Davis will move from working with outfielders to catchers.

Cannizaro will work with the outfield, something he said will be new ground.

Before a question could be slung his way, Mainieri pointed out the obvious during Monday’s event.

“If experience were a major factor, we would have never sent anybody to the moon,” Mainieri said. “That is the way I look at it. Andy Cannizaro is a baseball guy.”

Several leaders in the baseball world poured in compliments for LSU’s new hire.

Jim Hendry, the former general manager of the Chicago Cubs who now works as a special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, called Cannizaro a “rising star.”

It was Hendry, a friend of Mainieri, who first connected Cannizaro and LSU. Hendry asked Cannizaro if he’d be interested in the job. That got the ball rolling.

Cannizaro’s coach at Tulane, Rick Jones, called his former shortstop “honest, hard-working, committed.” Cannizaro will draw his coaching tactics from his experiences as a Tulane player under Jones, he said.

And, yes, that time includes wins over LSU.

Cannizaro said he’s heard from a few Tulane fans who have given him some grief for the move.

The rivalry between the two schools today is nothing like it was then, though.

As a player, Cannizaro and Tulane were 6-4 against LSU, including that super regional win in 2001.

“We’re going to let him stay,” Mainieri said smiling.