Square-jawed Ron Fraser had turned the Miami Hurricanes into a persistent powerhouse in college baseball. Skip Bertman, an assistant there, was hired as Louisiana State's head coach before the 1984 season.
LSU went to Omaha for the College World Series 11 times in 15 seasons from 1986 through 2000, and won five titles. Bertman coached in 2001, while also becoming the athletic director.
Bertman hired Smoke Laval that year, with a guarantee to become the head coach in 2002. Smoke made it to a pair of College World Series in 2003 and 2004, but when the Tigers missed the 2006 tournament, he was out the door.
Paul Mainieri was the replacement, and won LSU's sixth national title in 2009. In the 12 CWS since then, other SEC teams won seven national titles: South Carolina (2011, '12), Vanderbilt (2014, '19), Florida (2017), Mississippi State (2021) and Ole Miss (2022).
To make that baseball league even saltier, Oklahoma and Texas will soon be joining.
Mainieri resigned after a successful 15-year run late in the 2021 season. Jay Johnson was hired away from Arizona as his replacement on June 25. Jason Kelly, a former national assistant coach of the year, was hired away from Arizona State as Johnson's pitching coach on July 8.
There is a claim that during the 13-day stretch there was contact between Jay Johnson and the Twins' Wes Johnson as to his interest in becoming LSU's pitching coach.
What we must now assume is before Jay Johnson hired the well-regarded Kelly that he learned this:
Wes Johnson would be interested in moving from the major leagues to the monster league of college baseball, the SEC, if the deal was right.
The timing didn't have to be right, just the deal.
The Tigers' 2022 season ended June 6 with two straight losses to Southern Miss in a regional. On June 17, it was announced Kelly was leaving to be the head coach at Washington.
Again, there was contact between the Johnsons. Once the deal was right, Wes was willing to leave the Twins, pronto.
It happened so suddenly that on Sunday, as Kendall Rogers from @D1Baseball was breaking the news on Twitter of the LSU hire, top Twins management still had not been told directly by Johnson that he was leaving.
The generous words aimed at Johnson by team officials, manager Rocco Baldelli and Twins' pitchers on Monday were astounding for their praise and/or tolerance.
Yes, he was a positive personality and expert in biomechanics who was way more than a traditional pitching coach. He basically had built a Twins' pitching department.
Example: Wes sold the theory of "induced vertical break'' and "horizontal break'' to Twins' pitchers so thoroughly that those numbers are now on an outfield ribbon board at Target Field — not for fans, but for pitchers to turn around to discover if a pitch had reacted as intended.
And yet, here was Uncle Wes, bailing out midseason on a first-place team, when he could have taken the LSU job, stuck with the Twins, and reported for duty in early October — at the latest after the Twins went 0-2 in a first-round series.
Fall ball at LSU. Who cares? Practice starts in January. Schedule starts in mid-February.
What was the hurry for Johnson to get out of Dodge, or in this case, the Twin Cities? Twofold:
One, when you add up the official salary of $380,000, plus freebies, plus a sizable amount from a donors' fund, plus $100,000 that he figures to make as a cut from LSU's baseball camps, the total pushes toward $700,000, which is at least $300,000 more than he was making here.
Two, the most important signing date for baseball recruits long had been the second week of November, when high school seniors would agree to letters of intent.
That's now changed for most of the SEC and top-level D-I baseball. The vital recruiting is happening right now — grabbing players with a track record from the transfer portal.
"Major League Baseball drafts and signs most of the best young pitchers, and then college super teams — powerful lineups of proven 22-, 23-year-olds — are being built through the transfer portal," said John Anderson, the Gophers coach. "That makes this a huge time of year in the SEC."
Bottom line: LSU wants its big-league hire there in person as a portal closer, and for 700 grand or so, they probably deserve that.
Thus, good luck in Baton Rouge, Wes, and would you consider taking Emilio Pagan with you?