Jay Johnson’s most important recruit for the 2024 version of the LSU baseball team – which, by the way, is not defending anything and is instead merely taking the next step in his plan to annually finish every one of his seasons in Omaha – was not one of the top high school players in the nation.
Nor was it one of the coveted pitchers or position players that comprised LSU’s No. 2-rated transfer portal class.
At least not according to Johnson himself.
Instead, it may very well have been a fifth-year senior who for about six weeks during a pivotal stretch run was the hottest bat in the country.
So not just your typical fifth-year senior.
In fact, this fifth-year senior not only decided to return for a final season, but he was also awarded LSU baseball’s most prized jersey number – No. 8.
The No. 8 jersey is given each season to the upperclassman who exemplifies the spirit of LSU Baseball through his leadership and dedication to the program.
Who better to lead your team back to a dogpile in Omaha the very next season after you won the first national championship in 14 seasons at a program that bills itself as The Powerhouse of College Baseball because, well, because it is?
Hayden Travinski was so important for Johnson to recruit because an integral part of Johnson’s formula to achieve his goal winning the College World Series National Championship every year until he retires one day probably north of two decades from now is to have two key ingredients on his roster:
- Major League ballplayers, read future Major League players.
- Older, experienced ball players who have been through the SEC battles and learned how to play this game in the trenches to be active leaders on the team annually. It helps if they are originally from Louisiana. (See Cade Beloso and Gavin Dugas, circa 2023 national champions.)
It just so happens Travinski fully fills bucket two, and, Johnson thinks and says unabashedly, he more than likely fills bucket one, as well.
A look at his 2023 season highlights, makes it extremely difficult to argue with Johnson, which, I’m not sure why you would want to do that anyway.
The following are snippets of Travinski highlight reel from last years memorable season:
• Earned the starting catcher role by the end of April and played a tremendous role in the Tigers’ drive to the National Championship … appeared in 41 games (23 starts) on the year, batting .356 (37-for-104) with five doubles, 10 homers, 30 RBI and 30 runs scored
• Voted to the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional All-Tournament Team after hitting .429 (6-for-14) with one double, two homers, five RBI and five runs
• Batted .538 (7-for-13) in the SEC Tournament with one double, three RBI and three runs scored … recorded a career-best four hits in four-at bats with two runs scored in May 25 game vs. Arkansas
• Started two games (May 13-14) behind the plate in the Mississippi State series, and he hit .600 (3-for-5) with a homer, two RBI and two runs scored
• Travinski homered at least once in each of LSU’s final five SEC regular-season series versus Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Georgia (two HRs)
• Delivered a two-run single and threw out two runners attempting to steal on May 2 at Southeastern Louisiana
• Blasted the go-ahead three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning on April 29 vs. Alabama, erasing a 7-5 deficit and lifting the Tigers to a 12-8 win
• Launched a two-out, pinch-hit three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning April 23 to lift LSU to a 7-6 win over Ole Miss … Travinski’s homer, his first of the season, erased a 6-4 Ole Miss lead
• Earned his first start of the season at catcher on April 22 at Ole Miss, and he provided an RBI single and scored a run in the Tigers’ 8-4 win
Get the picture?
HT can ball, especially with a bat in his hand.
Look for Travinski to be LSU’s every day Designated Hitter when is not catching for the Tigers.
Travinski has been designated by Johnson as one of the key leaders for this year’s Powerhouse.
But the truth is, according to Travinski, it was not that difficult of a chore for Johnson to “recruit” him back to LSU.
“I think coming back really wasn’t a tough decision for me, just because I found it to be a better opportunity for myself. For me just to be here again and just wearing the LSU jersey is exciting,” Travinski said.
The chance to greatly improve his Major League Baseball draft stock by having another, perhaps even better season, in 2024, really did not motivate Travinski that much, either.
“Well I think (the most important factor was) having such a special group of guys, obviously, being, being that I’ve played with guys like (Josh) Pearson, (Alex) Milazzo, Thatcher (Hurd), Will Elmers, Tommy White . . . I just really love the camaraderie and, and I love the way we go about things as a program. We are there to work, we are there to get things done and we are there to accomplish our job,” he said.
Spoken like a true Jay Johnson baseball player.
TOP TRACKMAN EXIT SPEEDS FROM TODAY'S SCRIMMAGE:— LSUBaseballData (@LSUBaseballData) January 27, 2024
Hayden Travinski 108.2 mph
Jared Jones 107.8 mph
Tommy White 103.3 mph
Paxton Kling 102.5 mph
Jake Brown 102.3 mph
Brady Neal 101.9 mph
Tommy White 100.5 mph pic.twitter.com/WVHbrpJsFc
- Tiger Rag’s 2024 SEC Baseball Predictions:
- Mississippi State
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina