By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — Kramer Robertson has heard all the jokes at this point.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri, unamused by his bleached-blonde hair, quipped Wednesday that his shortstop must’ve been trying to look like his mother, Kim Mulkey.
The internet has been far more creative. Robertson has seen his head and golden locks superimposed onto the bodies of Hansel from “Zoolander,” Draco Malfoy of the “Harry Potter” series and numerous members of House Targaryen from “Game of Thrones.”
“Here I am still looking ridiculous, but I can deal with it for a few more days,” Robertson said Thursday. “It’s not a permanent look. It’s not my best look. I’m the center of a lot of jokes, but they’re pretty funny, so I can deal with it for a few more days.”
Robertson didn’t think the look would last more than one day, particularly after Mainieri announced at his postgame presser Wednesday night that all of the team’s hair would be back to its regular colors and shapes by practice Thursday.
The coach has a change of heart Wednesday night, it seems.
For one, he hadn’t noticed that almost half the team had gotten in on the wacky salon night as part of a team bonding exercise.
Mainieri professed he hadn’t noticed Zack Hess’ “Wild Thing” do, Hunter Newman’s mullet or the various shapes and sizes of Mohawks members of the team was rocking. Just Robertson’s blonde mop, which he initially took as the kind of individualistic attention grabber that he refused to abide.
“I thought it was only Kramer,” he said. “That’s why I reacted the way that I did … So in the spirit of team bonding, I’m going to let them wear their hair however they wish. If they think it can help win the games, God bless them.”
Asked what changed his mind, Mainieri shared the overwhelming push back he received from his family upon returning to the hotel after LSU’s season-saving 7-4 victory.
Mainieri’s wife, Karen, called him a “Fuddy dud,” which in itself is hilarious. His sister, brother-in-law and one of his sons also pressed him to lighten up, he said.
“I had to cave in,” he laughed. “So I sent a text message to the team around midnight saying ‘My wife gave me a hard time. You guys can wear your hair however the hell you want to.’ They’re all fired up.”
Apparently the funky hair is here to stay for as long as the Tigers draw breath in Omaha.
BEAVERS DECIDING BETWEEN TWO HARD-THROWERS
Getting back to the on-field business at hand, Oregon State hasn’t yet decided who a starting pitcher to oppose Alex Lange in the teams’ rematch at TD Ameritrade Park on Friday afternoon.
According to Danny Moran, who covers the Beavers for The Oregonian, OSU coach Pat Casey said he’d start either Jake Thompson (14-0, 1.84 ERA) or Drew Rasmussen (3-0, 0.79 ERA). The other would go Saturday should a winner-take-all game become necessary.
LSU knows that it’ll have its hands full with whoever toes the rubber for Oregon State.
Both are hard-throwing right handers with swing-and-miss stuff. Thompson is the de facto Oregon State ace with the controversial Luke Heimlich being left in Corvallis. Rasmussen was selected one pick after Lange in the MLB Draft despite missing much of this season due to injury.
“They both have great arms,” Mainieri said. “I said sometimes we hit guys better who throw harder, well, we’ll find that out, because both those guys are mid-90s (mph) kind of guys.”
There’s zero question about Zack Hess’ role is in the here and now.
The freshman closer is going to continue coming out of the bullpen throwing gas and trying to nail down games for as long as LSU stays alive in the College World Series.
But once this season ends, regardless of whether or not it’s with LSU hoisting its seventh national championship, Mainieri and Co. are going to have some decisions to make regarding the hard-throwing righty’s future.
Hess began the season as a starter before moving to the bullpen out of necessity. The coach held firm throughout the season that he planned to move Hess into the rotation next season, but in light of recent success, he left the door open Thursday when asked about keeping Hess in relief on a permanent basis.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” the coach said.
The more immediate decision regards what to do with Hess this summer. Mainieri said Hess is currently scheduled to go to the Cape Cod League and make four or five starts, but that plan may be impacted by his usage should LSU’s run in Omaha continue.
“We’ll figure that out,” Mainieri said. “Whether or not he should still go away in the summer and whether or not we should give him a shot to start in the fall.”