Cannizaro was LSU's clear choice

Andy Cannizaro was officially introduced Monday as the new LSU hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. He was the clear and only choice for Paul Mainieri.

Andy Cannizaro was Paul Mainieri’s first and only choice to fill the opening on his coaching staff.

Cannizaro was officially introduced Monday as the new LSU hitting coach and recruiting coordinator, capping the end to a coaching search that didn’t take all that long. He replaces Javi Sanchez, who resigned from his position earlier this summer to pursue a profession outside coaching.

Mainieri said he couldn’t have drawn up a better replacement.

“Andy was just the clear choice for me,” Mainieri said. “There wasn’t even a close second with the whole package he brought. I was just ultra confident that he was the right guy for this job…Across the board he was exactly what I was looking for.”

Cannizaro, a Mandeville native, comes from one of the state’s most respected baseball families. He was a two-time all-America at Tulane from 1998-2001. He is still that program’s all-time leader in games played (248), at-bats (1,030), hits (350), doubles (85) and stolen bases (128). The New York Yankees drafted him in 2001, and he reached the major leagues in 2006.

Following his playing career, he became a scout for the Yankees, a position he’d held for the last five years. His territory included Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida panhandle and the city of Memphis, so he’s well versed in this region of the country.

Once LSU came calling for its open position, Cannizaro couldn’t deny the opportunity to return to the college game.

“I loved working for the New York Yankees where the demands were greater than any other organization,” Cannizaro said. “Now I feel that I’m coming to work for the New York Yankees of college baseball.”

He certainly knows a thing or two about the LSU baseball program. The rivalry between the Tigers and Tulane really blossomed during Cannizaro’s career with the Green Wave. It all culminated with that 2001 super regional at Zephyr Field, which saw Cannizaro and Tulane reach their first College World Series in program history.

Now Cannizaro’s excited to see things from the other dugout.

“I couldn’t help but respect everything that transpired here at LSU with the program, the tradition, the passion and all the things that come with LSU baseball,” Cannizaro said. “It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get into college coaching…

“I’ve always been impressed with how hard LSU plays as a program. They never seem to hurt themselves. You know that if they’re going to lose, somebody’s going to have to beat them for nine innings. All those things happen from practice and continuing to preach all the right things. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to join this program.”

If there’s one hole in Cannizaro’s resume, it’s that he doesn’t have any prior coaching experience. Ask Mainieri though, and he shrugs off that concern.

“I’m not worried about that all,” Mainieri said. “If experience was a key factor, then we never would’ve sent somebody to the moon.”

Mainieri was sure to take a hard look at Cannizaro’s references, a list that included legendary Tulane coach Rick Jones and New York scouting director David Oppenheimer. Mainieri never heard one negative, and compared those rave reviews to the ones he heard about Alan Dunn when he was being vetted.

“I couldn’t find anybody that didn’t say the greatest of superlatives you could imagine,” Mainieri said. “He is so well-respected among baseball people at all levels…They all said that he was just a rising star in the Yankee’s organization. He probably could’ve been a farm director or general manager some day. But his goal was to get into college coaching.”

Cannizaro will enter a much different world with his new position though. Not only will he serve as the Tigers’ hitting coach, but he’ll also be in charge of recruiting, tasked with evaluating and enticing some of the nation’s best players to don purple and gold.

He’s ready for both challenges though, and said he has some very distinct philosophies he’ll bring to both sides of his job.

On hitting…

“One of the biggest things about being a hitting coach is being able to identify each hitter’s strengths and maximizing what each guy does well, and allow them to bring their A-game to the park everyday. We want to define each player’s role and maximize what they do, then add together the different pieces to the lineup each game.”

On recruiting…

“I’ll take a lot of those concepts on the way I evaluated players and take them to the college side of things. As a pro scout, I was pretty much at every summer tournament that Javi was at. We spent a lot of time with each other. We’d see the same players play. All these guys [on this team], I’ve already seen them play…I feel very fortunate to have the scouting background and to now come on board and join the LSU family.”

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