It might be coincidence – or not – that the first word three different people tossed out about incoming LSU freshman Andrew Stevenson was exactly the same.
And those three people – high school coach Chuck Perkins, LSU coach Paul Mainieri and Stevenson himself – ought to have a pretty good feel for the game that the star outfielder from St. Thomas More in Lafayette has developed the last several years.
“What he brings to our team is speed in the outfield,” Mainieri said. “He’s a good left-handed bat at the plate and that will help us. But it’s his speed offensively and in the outfield that really catches your attention.”
Added Perkins, Stevenson’s coach during his stellar three-year career, “This kid has a tremendous upside and it all starts with his speed. He does everything very well, but his speed is something that sets him apart.”
Not to be left out, the 6-foot, 180-pound Stevenson said he builds much of his game around that speed.
“I think I can bring some speed to the lineup,” he said. “I have a lot to learn and I need to learn how to hit SEC pitching, and one thing I know I want to do is put the ball on the ground and use my speed as an advantage.”
While speed may be at the crux of Stevenson’s abilities, there’s no doubt he has plenty more to offer.
As a senior at STM, he blazed his way to Class 4A All-State honors by hitting .546 (53 of 97) with 41 runs, 11 doubles, 5 triples, 1 home run, 20 RBIs and 29 stolen bases. He also played the entire season without an error in center field.
Those numbers conjure up comparisons to the Cougars’ most famous baseball alum, Mikie Mahtook.
“I don’t know Mikie very well,” Stevenson said. “I hit with him a few times and when you go to St. Thomas More, you hear all about him.
“There’s a little pressure on me to kind of fill his shoes, but I try to not let it get to me. He was a great player and I know I have a lot to learn before I can even be mentioned with a guy like him.”
The similarities are there and hard to ignore, though, starting with a pure athletic foundation.
|Andrew Stevenson: Impressive stats as a senior at St. Thomas More, including 29 stolen bases.|
Both Cougar alums possess uncanny bat speed, although Stevenson isn’t the same kind of power hitter as Mahtook – he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter. Stevenson said he has actually benefited from the BBCOR bats by relying more on his speed than ever before.
In the outfield, Stevenson is fluid and has a plus arm. He struck out only nine times last season in over 100 plate appearances.
Of course, there’s that speed thing.
And there’s no doubt he and Mahtook share one similarity,
“He plays so hard and he’s a great competitor,” Mainieri said. “He’s great kid with a great makeup and we’re excited about joining our program.
“How good he will be depends on how quickly he adjusts to hitting the quality of pitching he’ll see every day at this level. He looks very good, but he still has some things to work on, like any freshman.”
One of the things freshmen often aren’t ready for is the mental aspect of transitioning from being a star to being part of a team.
Another is how much the failure rate spikes as a freshman adjusts to every player around him and across from him being on even footing or better and often more experienced.
For some first-year players, that adjustment isn’t daunting. Mahtook adjusted quickly in 2009, while Tyler Hanover and Austin Nola launched long and steady careers as left-side infielders.
As for Stevenson, he seems to have the right approach as his college career gets set for takeoff.
“The big thing you have to keep in mind is that you can’t let failure get to you,” he said. “You do your best to overcome it, and when you get a chance take to do something big, take advantage of it.
“It helps me to see freshmen who have been given a chance to step up and make a difference. That helps my confidence.”