In a year when the Tigers make it to the College World Series, an LSU fan in his purple LSU shirt sitting behind home plate in Omaha, Nebraska, would have plenty of company – and not raise an ounce of interest.
But LSU is not there. The Tigers packed up their bats, their gloves and their dreams of reaching college baseball’s ultimate stage after falling to Southern Miss in the NCAA Hattiesburg regional.
LSU has been to the CWS plenty of times and will be there again. Baton Rouge’s Ed Sexton, himself a former Tiger infielder in the early 1970s, had never gone. His older stepbrother George has attended the CWS the past 15 years or so, but Ed never made it.
“Last fall I told my brother Don, ‘We’ve never been to the College World Series. We’re going. George is 85 now and we’re going, ‘”Sexton said. “It’s been a great experience.”
For George, a former high school and American Legion coach in North Carolina, as well as a one-time assistant at East Carolina, the NCAA tournament and CWS is a chance to catch up with old friends. He and former Texas A&M coach Mark Johnson have lunch in Omaha every year. And when Notre Dame stunned No. 1-ranked Tennessee earlier this month in the super regionals, Notre Dame coach and former ECU assistant Link Jarrett gave George Sexton the ball from the final out, autographed.
“That was really moving,” Ed Sexton said.
For Ed, his first trip to Omaha has been noted by his newfound fame – thanks in large part to that purple LSU shirt (brother Don sat with him at all the games in a gold LSU shirt).
“I bought all these nice LSU fishing shirts and wore the purple one night, and now I’ve had to wear it every game,” Sexton said.
Because he had attended each CWS game before flying home Thursday, sitting right behind the backstop at Charles Schwab Field (it’s no longer TD Ameritrade Park), Ed Sexton did not have a lot of time to sample Omaha’s famous steaks or throw back any Jell -O shots in the fan contest (just imagine how many shots LSU fans would have done). He also did not make it to Barrett’s Barleycorn Pub, the Leavenworth Street watering hole that for years has been the CWS gathering place for LSU fans.
“I’m not much of a party,” Sexton said. “After going to both games every day, I just wanted to go back to the hotel and go to bed.”
Instead, Omaha came to him. Locals caught sight of that purple shirt and approached him, saying how much they miss the Tigers and their legions of big-spending fans. As most LSU baseball fans know, the Tigers have not been to the CWS since reaching the championship series in 2017.
“People come up to me from Omaha and say, ‘We want you back. We miss LSU here. Your fans are the greatest, ‘”Sexton said. “It’s nothing but compliments on LSU and LSU fans.”
Sexton played for LSU from 1970-72, long before the program started making regular trips to Omaha and winning its six CWS titles. He played third base for two years, including games as a sophomore against Archie Manning when he played shortstop for Ole Miss.
As a senior, Sexton moved over to second base, making room for Gerald Keigley, a wide receiver on the football team, to play third. Mike Miley, who quarterbacked the Tigers in 1973 before being drafted by the California Angels, played shortstop. Miley made it up with the Angels before dying in a Baton Rouge car crash in January 1977.
Their baseball coach then was Jim Smith, whose main job was serving as equipment manager for LSU’s football team. To say it was a different era for LSU baseball would be a major understatement. Baseball was treated like an entirely different sport then.
“Can you imagine Skip Bertman being the equipment manager and then coming over to coach baseball?” Sexton asked with a laugh.
As much as Sexton enjoyed the CWS and his front-row seats this year, there’s only one thing that would have made it better.
“LSU will be here next year,” he said. “If LSU’s here and George is able to come back, I’m coming back.”
Do not forget the purple shirt.