OMAHA, Neb. -- After a College World Series win, a coach generally expects to gather in praise from those closest to him.
LSU’s Paul Mainieri encountered something a little different Wednesday night.
Just after his team dispatched of Florida State 7-4 in an elimination game, Mainieri – in a good mood mind you – playfully groused about senior Kramer Robertson’s blonde/yellow dyed hair, saying he had told him to return things to normal by Thursday.
The response: His wife Karen, his brother and sister-in-law, his son – well basically anybody near the Tigers’ coach – unloaded on him.
“They all said ‘What’s the harm! Let ’em have their fun,” Mainieri said with a smile on Thursday. “My wife told me I was being an old fuddy-dud. So I had to cave in.”
“Around midnight, I texted the players and told them my wife gave me a hard time so you can wear your hair however the hell you want.”
That was an abrupt about-face from Mainieri’s less than enthusiastic response to questions about Robertson’s new ’do in his official press conference afterward late Wednesday.
It was then that he learned that Robertson had not acted alone – that several other players had tinkered with their look prior to the do-or-die battle with the Seminoles.
“I ignored it before the game,” Mainieri said. “I didn't ignore it after the game. I didn't notice all the other ones. I only noticed Kramer's. And his hair will be back to normal color (Thursday) at practice. I don't know what the other haircuts even look like. I didn't even pay attention.
“I'm not big into the haircuts and the coloring of the hair. You know, it's a little bit of an attention-grabber, and I thought that it would be best if everybody just does stuff as a team and let's go out there and play good.”
And leading up to the rematch with the Beavers, who clubbed the Tigers 13-1 on Monday, Robertson didn’t have to avoid his coach. Which was the case Thursday because Robertson had a hunch what the reaction would be.
Rewind a bit to why the dark-haired senior shortstop made the change. After the lopsided loss to Oregon State, Robertson was 0-for-8 in two CWS games.
So right fielder Greg Deichmann hatched a plan to shake things up and approached Robertson with the idea.
“He tried to convince me to do a Mohawk or something fun with it ,” Robertson said. “If I go Mohawk, I’m going to have to shave my head, and I didn’t want to do that again. So I told him “If you guys want me to do it and you think it will help us, then whatever.”
As unlikely as a change in hair color was to affect the game, Robertson said he saw it as a way to lead and perhaps loosen up his teammates.
But he was wise enough to know Mainieri wouldn’t be quick to jump on board, so he wore a hood to cover his altered look at both the team breakfast and pre-game meal on Wednesday.
“Yeah, I avoided him as much as I could,” Robertson said with a smile. “I think the first time he saw it was when we got here for batting practice. I don’t think he loved it.”
“I didn't see Kramer's hair until we got in the dugout,” Mainieri said Wednesday night. “When I went to the pre-game meal, he wasn't there, and I had to get back because I had some stuff to do in preparation for the game. When I got on the bus, he was already at the back of the bus. He told me he was wearing a hood around all day so I wouldn't see him. When I saw it in the dugout, my eyes were as big as grapefruits, but I didn't say anything to him until after the game.”
Mainieri clearly didn’t dive into social media Tuesday night, either, because photos of the change circulated wildly. Enough so that Robertson’s mom, Kim Mulkey, did see it and bent his ear.
“She told me ‘People already make fun of us enough on social media and now you did this?’ ” Robertson said.
When practice rolled around Thursday, Robertson still had the golden locks and Mainieri explained why.
“I thought it was only Kramer at first and that’s why I responded the way I did,” Mainieri said. “But if it was in the spirit of team bonding, then it’s not that big a deal. If they think it helps win the game, then God bless ’em. We’ve had possums and beach balls help us win games, so if they think haircuts can win games, so be it.”