Long after his tour of the facilities ended on Sunday night, Jay Johnson sat down in his new office and called LSU’s roster players. He caught one as the player was driving near Alex Box Stadium.
“Why don’t you come? Johnson said.
The player, a draft-eligible pitcher, pulled into the parking lot and met Johnson at 11pm. They discussed staying at LSU and starting a professional career, weighing the pros and cons of the two options.
“We started talking about the things we could potentially do to help him create value for himself,” Johnson said, “and not just sign a pro contract, but be ready – really ready – when he will go and make this dream come true. “
The conversation was the first Johnson had face-to-face with a player on the LSU team as he began his tenure in the midst of one of the most transformative stretches of the college baseball calendar.
Jay Johnson had spent 44 years on the West Coast until he became LSU’s baseball coach last week. He couldn’t refuse what he called “the opportunity of my life”.
Johnson tends to work constantly, his former players and coaches have said, but he also has no time to waste. This year, two pivotal dates arrive in less than two weeks. Athletes who intend to transfer must notify their schools by July 1, according to a new NCAA rule. Next, the Major League Baseball Draft begins on July 11.
Johnson understands the brief turnaround, and since taking the job last week he has prioritized building LSU’s roster. Johnson considers the players the most important part of winning a national championship, so over the past five days he has spent most of his free time contacting them, watching match movies and figuring out scholarship numbers. . Johnson wants to earn the trust of the players. He gave a “plan” to some of those attending the summer ball on how they can improve.
“We can’t go to Omaha today,” Johnson said. “But our summer baseball players can do something that can move us in that direction. Our players who are in the weight room or in summer school can do something today that pushes us in that direction.
Johnson has inherited an intriguing group of returning players. While LSU struggled at times last season, three of its top four hitters – outfielder Dylan Crews, first baseman Tre ‘Morgan and infelder Cade Doughty – were subclasses, as well as stopping – Short starting Jordan Thompson and infielder Zach Arnold.
LSU has also seen the emergence of freshman pitchers Garrett Edwards, Javen Coleman and Will Hellmers, who could help fill in the gaps as LSU plans to lose its starting rotation. Some of LSU’s top draft-eligible players, such as senior pitcher Devin Fontenot and junior outfielder Gavin Dugas, could also return.
Each coach’s introductory press conference is filled with gossip upbeat enough to lift a hot air balloon off the ground.
“The previous stops that I’ve been to, at the time, all were reconstructions,” Johnson said. “I consider this a reboot.”
The Tigers had holes, however, and Johnson will need to fill them to compete for a championship. As he does, he can check out the ranks of junior colleges, the transfer portal, and LSU signing class players.
Johnson’s arrival could attract players on its own. Last week, hours after Johnson’s hiring announcement, 2022 infielder Mikey Romero moved from Arizona to LSU. On Tuesday night, 12 Arizona players reportedly entered the transfer portal, including All-American infielder Jacob Berry.
“As far as the transfer portal goes, I want to be fair,” Johnson said. “I want to give the players the opportunity to determine what is the best opportunity for them.”
Along the way, Johnson has to hire assistant coaches and train the rest of his support staff. He can’t bring back batting coach Eddie Smith or recruiting coordinator Nolan Cain, who held positions at Utah Valley and Texas A&M, respectively. Johnson’s pitching coach for the past two seasons in Arizona, Nate Yeskie, is also not an option. Yeskie accepted the same position at Texas A&M.
Responsible for bringing the LSU baseball program back to the national championship level, new coach Jay Johnson met reporters and fans on Monday for his…
Johnson said in his press conference on Monday that he did not have a schedule as he sought coaches who could develop players and recruit areas of the country that complement his relationship with the West. With a background as a batting coach, Johnson said he wanted a pitching coach who has “significant experience” at the college or professional level.
Johnson allegedly offered the job of recruiting coordinator to Texas Tech’s J-Bob Thomas, but Thomas turned down the job, according to multiple reports. Thomas also reportedly turned down an offer from Texas A&M two years ago.
“I talk to a lot of people,” Johnson said. “It’s not narrow research because getting it right is too important…. You would be really impressed with the amount of talented coaches who want to come to LSU. I have had a lot of new best friends over the past five days.
Since taking on the job, various obligations have occupied the majority of Johnson’s time. Now that the tours and presentations are over, he can focus on training the LSU team by taking charge of the program.
With the crowd gone and the parking lot emptied Monday night after his press conference, Johnson sat alone in his office. His new jersey and the button-down shirt he had worn earlier in the day hung on a coat rack near his desk, replaced with an LSU windbreaker. A bat rested in one corner, a championship trophy in the other. Johnson swiveled behind his desk to make calls and look at a tablet. He wasted no time.