Q&A: Mahtook talks about signing with TB

LSU's star outfielder reveals that he seriously weighed returning for his senior year before a last-hour decision to start his pro career.

With 30 more minutes to think about it – or 30 minutes less – Mikie Mahtook might have chosen a different fork in the road.

When it came down to the wire, though, Mahtook came to what he called Tuesday the hardest decision of his life when he left LSU behind to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Lafayette native signed a contract worth $1.15 million, with the announcement made 5 minutes before the 11 p.m. CDT deadline for players to either choose college baseball or a professional career.

Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said Tuesday that Mahtook's advisor told him that as late as 10:30 p.m. Monday night, the star outfielder hadn't reached a final decision.

"I am 100 percent supportive of Mikie Mahtook and what he decided to do," Mainieri said. "That is a wonderful young man, one of the greatest kids that I've had the privilege of coaching. He gave his heart and soul to LSU baseball for three years.

"He became kind of the poster child for our program because of his enthusiasm, his energy, his love of our university and our baseball program."

After a whirlwind night, Mahtook took a few minutes Tuesday to discuss his decision. Here are the questions and answers from the interview.

Question: Just how crazy was Monday for you as you went through the last-second process?

Answer: "Throughout the summer, we had a lot of professional talks and they had gone really well. Toward the end of the summer, it wasn't so much about money but me deciding where I wanted to go at this point in my life. Me and my mom decided ultimately it was time for me to go. It was a pretty cool experience, but pretty stressful."

Q: How important was your mom in the final decision, especially regarding her health? (Editor's note: MaryAnn Mahtook is a cancer survivor and is still recovering from breast cancer.)

A: "When I came up with the decision, it was my mom I talked to last about all the pros and cons, and once we did that, the big thing is that I wanted to start my professional year. My mom is great – healthier than she's been in a long time. … Since this was my first summer off in my entire baseball life, we spent a lot of time together and I got to see how healthy she was and how much progress she's made."

Q: How close were you to staying at LSU for your senior season?

A: "Very close. This is probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life. LSU is not a normal place for a college kid. There's no place like this. I love hanging out with the guys on the team, I love the college atmosphere. Really I love everything about LSU.

"I was really tempted to come back."

Q: Why was it such a pull to come back?

A: "Our team next year is going to be special with all the talent we have coming back and all the talent we have coming in. Missing out on next year was probably the hardest part of this decision."

Q: Why did you pass your #8 on to Mason Katz?

A: "I didn't meet Mason until my sophomore year, but I saw right away that this kid had something special about him. He reminds me a lot of myself – full of energy, a little reckless at times and somebody who just loves to play the game. He's become one of my best friends, and when I told him I'd like him to take my No. 8, he told me it was an honor to have him wear it."

Q: What have the Rays' told you about their immediate plans for you?

A: "I'm heading out Sunday to Port Charlotte, Fla., to work out and stay in shape. I'll take some time to get comfortable in their system, and then in the fall, I'll play in the Instructional League."

Q: Do they have a plan for you as far as how quickly you might get a chance in the big leagues?

A: "It all depends on how well I perform and how quickly I can get acclimated I get to their system. I'm anxious to go over there and show them they made a good investment by picking me, and then I'll work as hard as I can to get to the Major Leagues as fast as Louis Coleman and D. J. LeMahieu have."

Q: How prepared do you feel for the next level?

A: "Playing here for Coach Mainieri has trained me pretty well for this next step of my life. He's been more than a coach; he's also been a mentor. There has been a lot of tough love, and there have been times when I didn't like him very much, but I always knew he cared about me and was trying to motivate me to be the best player I could be."

Q: When you were reaching this final decision, how much was your dad on your mind? (Editor's note: Mahtook's father, also named Mikie, died suddenly in June 1994 when his son was only 5 years old.

A: "He's been there in my heart for every big decision I've ever made in my life. He's a big reason for who I am and what I've accomplished. I know I'm always going to have a pair of eyes looking down at me. He was with me when I was making this decision. He's always been there with my mom and I – it's been us three – and always going to that way."

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