It’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish in sports and since 1947 only 24 teams have done it; win a College World Series Title.
Boise Hawks Catcher Micah Gibbs is one of the few people that can say that (and wear the hardware). In 2009, Micah was apart of the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers team that went to Omaha, Nebraska and won their 6th College World Series Title.
“It’s one of the hardest things in college baseball to do (make it to Omaha). In the pre-season, Coach Paul Mainieri kept saying “let’s make it back to Omaha”, but all of the us players were like “no, we are winning the National Championship”,” said Gibbs. “We knew we had the pitching, defense, and offense to compete in arguably the toughest conference in college baseball. We felt that would give us the training and preparation that we needed.”
The difficult task for the Tigers that season was to do something that had not been done since 2003; be a nationally ranked team to win the College World Series Title. The Tigers also faced the challenge of losing several coaches, including pitching coach Terry Rooney and hitting coach Cliff Goodwin.
“We found out right before we were getting on the plane to leave Omaha in 2008. Javi Sanchez, who was a volunteer-assistant, stepped up as the hitting coach. David Grewe, who was the head coach at Michigan State, was brought in to be the pitching coach,” said Gibbs. “It was a different phase for our pitchers because Grewe and Rooney have two different plans of attack.”
While Gibbs said that both methods worked well, Coach Grewe had more of a pro-ball mentality that made it easy from Gibbs’ role.
“I think the one thing that coach Grewe did well was that he had a laid back personality,” says Gibbs. “Because of that, I was able to work more with the pitchers in the Fall and figure out who could do what.”
The laid back mentality and approached also helped Gibbs with some of his fellow teammates. Pitcher Matty Ott, who was one of the top closers in the SEC, has benefited from the laid back approach.
“Matty set LSU single-season saves record in 2009. In his first appearance, which wasn’t a save situation, I could tell he was kinda nervous,” said Gibbs. “I tried to calm him down as much as I could with words, but I could still tell he was nervous. As I was jogging back to home plate, the “Chicken Dance” was playing. So I was like “why not” and I got behind home plate and started doing the “Chicken Dance”. He started laughing and I could tell all the pressure went away.”
LSU went into the season with a lot of pressure and hype, being the preseason number one. With a big target painted on their back, the Tigers had all people gunning for them and their number one ranking.
“Every single time someone comes into Alex Box Stadium (LSU’s Home Stadium), they play their best game and that helps us play our best game. We face guys that throw a certain velocity and then they come to Baton Rouge and they throw even harder,” said Gibbs. “When you have 10,000 to 12,000 screaming fans, everyone’s adrenaline is going to be kicking in.”
When I asked Gibbs about the team’s defining moment, he talked about a series that had taken place the year before. With the majority of the team returning from the 2008 season, the 2009 team had been impacted by a tough series against the number one seed in college baseball, the Georgia Bulldogs.
“The one that stands out the most was the series we didn’t win against Georgia in 2008. They were number one or two in the nation at that time and they were pretty much on top of the world. That was the team that had Gordon Beckham and Josh Fields,” said Gibbs. “They were the best of the best and we were going to find out how good we really are. We hung in well with them and we almost beat the number one team in the country. That got our confidence up.”
LSU advanced to the College World Series Final and had to take on a team that had already been there 33 times and won six titles, the Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns were the top seed in the tournament and gave the Tigers all they could handle. The series went to a third and final game, in which the Tigers won 11-4.
“We just wanted to go out there and have fun. We knew this could be our only chance at a National Championship and we didn’t want to go in there and be real tight and nervous,” said Gibbs. “That final game we had Anthony Ranaudo on the mound, who was one of the top pitchers in the country that year. When we got off the bus we knew we were going to win, we just didn’t know how it was going to happen.”
Once the final out was recorded, it was all emotion from there.
“There was so much excitement and adrenaline that people were yelling in the dog pile on the field,” said Gibbs. “Louis Coleman, who was the SEC Pitcher of the Year, closed it out for us. I don’t think there is anyone in baseball who was more of an automatic win than him. When we were in the dog pile it’s kinda funny; he kissed me on the forehead and said “I love you man” (laughs). It was a little weird.”
One of the interesting things we talked about was the fact that Gibbs grew up as a fan of Texas baseball, not just LSU baseball. Gibbs is from Pflugerville, TX and being a native, he always had dreams of playing for Texas. The irony of playing Texas in the Championship Series and beating them was bitter-sweet for Gibbs.
“I went to Texas baseball camps and LSU baseball camps when I was a kid. When it came time LSU called me and Texas didn’t, so it wasn’t too hard of a decision. After we beat Texas, a bunch of my friends back home gave me a bunch of crap for it,” said Gibbs with a chuckle. “I don’t think there is a team I would have rather beaten for the College World Series Title than Texas.”
Gibbs is one of the few who can say he owns the hardware. But before his baseball career is over, there is one other piece he would like to have; a World Series Ring.
“It’s definitely going to a memory that I carry with me for the rest of my life. Until I win a World Series Title for the Chicago Cubs, I don’t think there is anything out there that could top a this,” said Gibbs.
Till next time..
Media Relations Assistant