LSU head baseball coach Paul Mainieri fielded questions from reporters on Tuesday with mixed emotions. While the skipper was more than pleased with the new class, the group’s headliners were missing.
Brett Bruening, a 6-foot-6, pitcher prospect from Grayson County Junior College, was released from his letter of intent after academic troubles surfaced.
Mainieri said that Slade Heathcott, a first round draft pick to the New York Yankees, had told the Tigers at the beginning of August that he would sign to play professionally. Zachary High pitcher Zach Von Rosenberg – the two-time Mr. Baseball of Louisiana – reached terms with the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 8.
Yet, the biggest blow could very well have been the final one. On Monday, Brody Colvin signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, who had taken the right-hander in the seventh round of June’s First-Year Player Draft.
After speaking via text with Colvin that morning, Mainieri was “100-percent confident” that the Lafayette-native would a Tiger.
“He was in freshman orientation getting his ID card when the phone call came from the ball club with their last offer,” Mainieri said. “He literally left orientation. To me, that is ludicrous.”
The problem, Mainieri said, stems not from the players but rather the MLB.
“If anything, I am upset with the system we have to deal with,” Mainieri said. “The August 17 deadline is an arbitrary date released by Major League Baseball that gives them the opportunity to sign players by midnight on that day.
“I can’t believe we have a system that allows for these kids not to get on with their lives,” he continued. “Why August 17? In my opinion, it should be about July 15. It is still a deadline, but it leaves the colleges enough time to scramble and find other players to fill the gaps.”
For that reason, Mainieri set a personal deadline – which he said that he intends on doing in seasons to come.
“I decided that I was not going to let Major League Baseball determine the fate of LSU baseball,” Mainieri said. “I went to those three and said when it comes to August 3, you have one of two options. You could have agreed with a professional team, or have not.
“If you have not, you have two more options,” he continued. “You could continue to negotiate, or you can break off negotiations and give me your word. You could make a public statement saying that you are coming to school.”
Heathcott abided, telling Mainieri that he would be signing once a deal with the Yankees was finalized. On Tuesday, Heathcott signed for $2.2 million.
Yet, Colvin and Von Rosenberg allowed Mainieri’s date to pass without an answer for the headman. From there, Mainieri moved on.
“If you decide to keep negotiating, that is telling me that you really want to sign as long as they meet your terms,” he said. “At that point, coach [David] Grewe and I are going to move forward and we are going out to recruit players. We are not going to wait until August 17 and be left at the altar.”
In the end, of course, the Tigers were – more or less - left at the altar.
“We were hoping that maybe two of the four showed up to school,” Mainieri said. “Well, one of the four showed up. But, it is not as if the sky is falling. I am a big believer that the kids that want to be a part of the program are the ones that you can succeed with.”