Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, the proprietors of Cespedes Family Barbecue, are taking a baseball road trip and chronicling their travels at Baseball Prospectus. You can find the series introduction and itinerary here.
Started in: Birmingham, AL
Slept in: Lafayette, LA
Today’s Mileage: 455
Total Mileage: 1,511
Uncertainty is both an expected and an enjoyable part of any good road trip. Not knowing where you’ll be the next week or even the next day is a refreshing change of pace from life’s normal rigidity. Afraid that we might not be able to get tickets to the LSU regional, we went to bed last night with at least four different backup plans in case certain things didn’t go our way. Fortunately, we were able to get tickets to see the game in Baton Rouge. But that didn’t make our journey any more predictable.
Our first stop after leaving Birmingham may end up being the most important moment of our lives. We drove southwest on Route 11 toward Bessemer, home to both the greatest athlete in the history of America, Bo Jackson, and the street named after the greatest athlete in the history of America, Bo Jackson Avenue. The road itself is only about 100 yards long and is littered with houses, trailers, and wooded areas; about 20 people not named Bo Jackson live on Bo Jackson Avenue. Feeling like the touristiest tourists in all of Bessemer, we got out of the car, took some dorky pictures, and paid homage to the origin of Bo. Jordan summed up the absurd nature of the entire experience very well: “You know how people talk about how Bo Jackson jumped over a house when he was 6? THAT’S THAT HOUSE!”
After about 20 minutes of Bo-centric activities, we left Bessemer for less athletically inclined pastures. Our six-hour trip to Baton Rouge featured a quick detour to Cuba, home of our hero, Yoenis Cespedes, as well as many other exciting major leaguers. We got to Alex Box Stadium at LSU around 2:30 after about a half hour of trying to park. When everyone else in the state drives a Ford F150, parking lots are not conducive to the structural integrity of your Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The parking lot itself was located somewhere near the French Quarter of New Orleans, so the walk to the stadium took us a while.
Built in 1938, Box Stadium competes with any minor league park in the country in terms of size, amenities, and overall awesomeness. Designed to hold the largest fan base in college baseball, the stadium features club boxes, outfield bleachers, and a video scoreboard, all things that my college baseball field at Washington University certainly does not have.
What really stood out was the atmosphere at the game. You’ll never see a minor league fan base so completely committed and emotionally dedicated to their team. Decked out in purple and gold shirts that let everyone else know just how much better LSU is than every other place, the fans were loud and raucous the entire game. They were also extremely respectful. When the opposing pitcher for Southeastern Louisiana University was pulled in the seventh after a gutsy performance, the LSU fans gave the kid a standing ovation. There was no booing during opposing team mound visits or pickoff attempts, and while at times their overconfidence waved like an enormous flag, the fans at LSU have created an amazing atmosphere that every baseball fan should experience.
Game Notes by Jordan Shusterman
We made our arrival in the top of the third inning, with the game tied 1-1. We were hoping to see RHP Aaron Nola start for the Tigers, as he’s easily their best pitcher and a projected first-round pick in next week’s draft. The LSU starter turned out to be freshman left-hander Jared Poche, who pitched a respectable six innings and kept his team in the game.
- Since Nola wasn’t throwing, the only notable pro prospect to see on either of these teams was sophomore LSU shortstop Alex Bregman. Bregman was the 2013 National Freshman of the Year. He followed up that impressive college debut with a solid all-around season for the Tigers, starting all 60 games and hitting .300/.378/.438. In yesterday’s game, he went 1-4 with a single and an RBI groundout. In the field, he showed quick feet and a good feel for the shortstop position.
- The bottom of the eighth inning was when Southeastern Louisiana completely melted down. It wasn’t pretty, but it was very college baseball, if you know what I mean. With the game tied 4-4, SLU reliever Dylan Hills got the leadoff man, LSU outfielder Andrew Stevenson, to fly out. Everything went downhill from there. The next batter bunted, because duh, and the catcher threw the ball wide, allowing the runner to advance to second. The batter who followed reached on an infield single, setting up first and third with one out. Hills attempted to pick off the runner on first but ended up throwing the ball into the ground right in front of him. It looked like he was spiking a football after a touchdown, and that’s never a good thing to look like on a baseball field. A couple batters later, Hills gave up an opposite-field two-run bomb to 5’ 8” outfielder Sean McMullen. The Box exploded, and the game was sealed in the Tigers’ favor.
- LSU has a catcher named Kade Scivicque. Scivicque. Civic? Ceviche? Skivikyoo? Sheevikway? Sci-fi? I don’t know. I just wish everyone’s names included more V’s and Q’s.
National Anthem: We arrived too late to hear the national anthem, but we can only imagine the beauty of the 2:53 spoken-word national anthem performed by former LSU QB JaMarcus Russell.
Mascot Creepiness: We didn’t see a mascot, but we did see a real photograph of Ben McDonald throwing a baseball.
Purchases: Jordan bought a t-shirt with the logos of every team in this year’s college World Series. I bought myself a bowl of jambalaya, a cup of Dippin’ Dots, and a trip to the concourse restroom.
Trip Counter (We’ll be counting some of the things we run into on our travels.)
What’s Next: Tomorrow, we leave America and cross the border into Texas. We didn’t bring our passports, but hopefully our fine collection of shirseys will get us through customs without a hitch. We’ll be at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the land of Jose Altuve, Kevin Goldstein’s secret fedora closet, and the most talented Hoes we’ll ever see. May the sovereign nation of Texas be lenient on our souls.
Thank you for reading
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