As a 23-year-old baseball coach looking to find his footing in the college ranks, Jay Johnson sat down and asked himself who did he want to emulate? Very quickly the answer came to him, the man who he called the John Wooden of college baseball during his introductory press conference Monday, Skip Bertman.
He went out and bought Bertman's "How to Win the Big One," an all encompassing video tape of building an elite college baseball program. It was a very round about way of having an LSU baseball connection, one that the now 44-year-old Johnson doesn't have all that much of.
But that's ok because his goals are the same that Bertman's legacy created for the program, the goals that Paul Mainieri continued for the last 15 years and now the goals that Johnson himself will carry out in the hopes of building a sustainable winner in Baton Rouge.
"My goal is when you look out on that field at Alex Box Stadium, there's a brand of baseball that everybody in this state, in this community associated with this university is incredibly proud of," Johnson said. "You know what that looks like. You've seen it. No program in college baseball has seen it on a more consistent basis than LSU."
Here's how he's going to do it. For starters, he's going to recruit not just the best players in the state of Louisiana, which he called a priority, but the best in the country. Johnson has cut his teeth as a great recruiter, one that's willing to do the extra work and go the extra mile to watch a high school prospect in person.
But with the backing of the weight the LSU name carries along with it, Johnson is hoping to take the recruiting to new heights.
"We're going sell a vision of the elite college baseball program in the country where anything is possible," Johnson said. "What does that look like? It looks like a player of elite talent, elite character with a work ethic unknown to mankind because that's going to be what is required to be successful in our program."
Development is another big key for Johnson as he takes on this one of a kind job in terms of expectations. Over his years at Arizona, the Wildcats were one of the most consistent teams in terms of offensive production in the country.
The offensive philsophy that Johnson has developed over his coaching career has worked and with a lineup that has the top heavy talent like Dylan Crews, Tre Morgan and Cade Doughty, getting some of the other young hitters to buy into that philosophy at the plate will be critical. Elite strike zone discipline and being "warriors" with two strikes is just a little bit of what he wants out of his hitters.
"We're asking our players to develop through work ethic," Johnson said. "I was afforded an opportunity to really figure out offensive baseball and what does your team need to do and what it's rooted in. I have some very strong beliefs in terms of mechanics, vision, at bats, what we call moving the offense. Ultimately I want teams to hate to play us and I think we've accomplished that.
In the end, it's quite simple Johnson. Recruit, develop, win. Each one ripples into the next and it starts with building relationships with the players already on this roster and how the new crop of talent can help mold LSU into Johnson's vision for the program.
"You can't go to Omaha now but our players out in summer baseball can be doing something that can be moving us in that direction," Johnson said. "When we get to September 1 and we're on the field in 4v1 or skill work, we're going to be doing something to get us there. You stack up a lot of those days and then you can start talking about national championships but you have to earn the right to do that."