"My name is D. J. LeMahieu and all I do is win championships," Peoria Chiefs trainer Kelly Vanhove joked as he passed the former LSU Tiger.
In a way, Vanhove is right.
In LeMahieu's freshman season at Brother Rice High School in Michigan, he became the starting shortstop after the school's first doubleheader of the season (moving from second base) and helped lead the team to the state semi-finals.
After becoming a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year ('06-'07) in Michigan, as well as being named a Rawlings All-American and Louisville Slugger All-American, he signed with LSU.
LeMahieu helped the Tigers advance to the College World Series in his freshman season, where they finished with a No. 5 ranking. This past college season, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound shortstop hit a team high .350 with five home runs and 43 RBI en route to the NCAA Championship; the Tigers defeated Texas in the CWS.
"Playing in the College World Series was awesome and winning the championship was unbelievable," LeMahieu said. "I couldn't really be in a better spot right now. I'm enjoying it."
During the College World Series, LeMahieu had several clutch hits, and he has driven in key runs for the Chiefs down the stretch as well. With runners on, the right handed batting LeMahieu prepares himself mentally to come up with the big hit.
"With guys in scoring position, your at-bat becomes a little bit more important," LeMahieu said. "I just try to focus a little bit more. You just put yourself in a different mindset. That's what I've been trying to do and it's been working out pretty well."
The LSU alum did not know he would end up in Peoria so soon. After the draft, he thought he would be playing in Boise (short-season Class A ball) following a short stint in Arizona (July 24-27). But he was pleasantly surprised to get word that he had been promoted to the Chiefs, and went on to help them to their best second half in franchise history (43-26).
"Leading up to the draft, I was pretty nervous and tried to keep my mind off it," LeMahieu recalled. "I tried not to watch the draft but ended up watching it with my roommates from college. Being picked by the Cubs is a dream come true.
"(The organization) said I was going to go to Arizona for a while. I thought I was going to go to Boise, actually. But when I found out I was going to Peoria, I was excited and I'm liking it here."
The Chiefs like him in Peoria, too. Since the promotion, #5 has accumulated 48 hits in 152 at-bats (.316) and driven in 30 runs. LeMahieu has yet to hit his first professional home run, but Chiefs manager Marty Pevey knows he will develop power as he matures in the batter's box.
"He does a great job of hitting line drives and hitting the gaps," Pevey said. "As he gets more at-bats and matures as a hitter, the power will come."
Coming from college to professional baseball has had its challenges for LeMahieu, but nothing too drastic for him to handle.
"There is more depth in pitching (at the professional level)," LeMahieu said. "Pitcher after pitcher throws for strikes and throws hard. And getting used to the wooden bat is a little different, but I've been making adjustments.
"I was used to playing a game and having a few days off. Now it's just baseball every day. I wake up and head down to the ballpark."
As the summer comes to an end and the baseball season does as well, it signifies the start of a new season -- one that LeMahieu also follows closely. Coming from a school with a rich sports tradition, baseball is not the only sport on his mind; LeMahieu also roots for the LSU Tigers football team as well.
"I'm excited for the season. I had a couple football players that played on the baseball team as well," LeMahieu said.
When asked for his prediction on the team this year, LeMahieu responded as any Tiger fan would: "Probably a National Championship this year."
CHIEFS READY FOR FIRST-ROUND MATCH-UP
The Chiefs' first round playoff opponent is Cedar Rapids starting Wednesday. Game 1 will be at O'Brien Field with a first pitch time of 6:30 p.m.
The Chiefs have to feel good about their chances as they dominated the Kernels in their last regular season match-up in Cedar Rapids. They outscored Cedar Rapids 35-15.
"I think we swing the bats better (than Cedar Rapids)," Pevey said. "But good pitching beats good hitting. The last four games there we played solid defense. We ran the bases well and hit and run to score runs as well.
"I think we match up OK, but we have to continue to throw strikes with our starters. Austin (Bibens-Dirkx) will pitch Game 1 and Game 2 will be (Jeff) Antigua."
The Chiefs also announced end-of-season honors recently. First baseman Rebel Ridling and outfielder Kyler Burke were named Offensive Player(s) of the Year, and right-hander Chris Huseby was named Pitcher of the Year.
LeMahieu Eyes Another Ring
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