The term star is overused in sports. It's usually thrown around far too casually when describing the men and women who play the games. But in the case of LSU junior outfielder Mikie Mahtook, every bit of his praise and stardom is warranted. When it comes to Fightin' Tiger baseball, good players have come and gone over the years; but few are truly remembered. Mahtook is currently on pace to be one of those special players. He simply has all the right stuff. It starts with his phenomenal athletic ability, the kind of skill that could probably be utilized by Les Miles' Tigers on Saturday nights. It continues with his passion, an unquestioned strength of #8; nobody plays the game harder. Watching Mikie Mahtook celebrate his dynamic plays is almost as entertaining as those dynamic plays themselves. His celebrations are never solo acts; Mahtook always includes his teammates. It's just as much their moment as it is his. Finally, it never hurts when a star possesses powerful movie star looks; and, as few female Tiger fans will debate, Mahtook has more than his fair share.
Mahtook's impact in LSU's desperately needed SEC series win over Ole Miss was powerful. On Friday night he smashed two home runs off the Rebel's star left-handed pitcher Matt Crouse, a hurler that had only allowed one dinger in over 43 innings of work. Mahtook obviously wasn't intimidated by Crouse's perfect 6-0 record or his 1.27 ERA. He would also deliver a solid RBI rip in the 7-6 triumph while covering tons of ground in the outfield to make several running catches.
On Sunday, with the series hanging in the balance, the Lafayette native delivered again in the crucial rubber match. Mahtook thought he had his 11th home run of the season when he pounded an Austin Wright offering to dead center field, but the ball bounced straight off the top of the fence and remained in the yard. A run still scored on Mahtook's blast, and he settled for a triple. Then, with the Tigers up 8-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, he still wasn't done giving 100%. Mahtook would break into a full sprint, laying out and gloving Alex Yarbrough's liner in the right field gap for the final out. What remained of the 6,266 fans at Alex Box Stadium roared in approval. LSU fans know this kid is special.
After 28 games Mahtook's batting average is a robust .404. But as fantastic as Mahtook's statistics are, Mikie Mahtook, the person, is even more impressive. He does a fantastic job of being LSU's confident, strong, unwavering leader without being arrogant. And that certainly is no easy accomplishment. You'll never catch Mahtook griping about the strike zone after a contest or doing anything to disrespect the game. The guy could blast four home runs in a single afternoon, and then tell the media he was just "fortunate." And then, after those LSU Sunday afternoon contests at Alex Box Stadium, you'll find Mahtook at Christ The King church attending evening mass. There is no other way to describe him than a great, South Louisiana, Catholic kid.
The death of Mahtook's father when he was young has been well-documented. But it's certainly worth mentioning again in order to explain the adversity he's had to overcome.
Enjoy Mikie Mahtook while you can, LSU fans. It's likely this guy will be playing professional baseball this summer. But no matter when this tremendous talent departs, no one can say they've been cheated.
Mahtook, you da man.