For a lot of college athletes, the chance to compete at the highest level is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something to cherish and soak up.
When that chance comes around a second time – or at least a shot at reviving a career that had all but petered out – it’s special. For LSU’s Beau Didier, it’s not something he’s going to take lightly.
Starting with Wednesday’s game against ULL (6:30 p.m./Alex Box Stadium), Didier will get a chance to carve out a regular role as the left-handed designated hitter for the 12th-ranked Tigers, a job that sprang open when Chris Sciambra’s 2012 season screeched to a halt with a serious neck injury suffered at Auburn last weekend.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri wants as many left-handed hitters available as possible against SEC competition and Sciambra had emerged as a reliable hitter from that side of the plate. His absence also necessitates a position shuffle that will result in either Grant Dozar or Tyler Moore – two other lefties – manning first base.
|Beau Didier: 8 starts at 3B in 2010 but has been mostly a pinch-hitter and late-inning replacement.|
So Didier, whose career has consisted mainly of pinch-hitting duties and mopup time in blowouts, is back in the spotlight.
“I’m just thankful to get another opportunity,” the senior from Federal Way, Wash., said. “I want to do everything I can to help us win.”
Not that starting is a completely new experience for Didier.
In 2010 when Mainieri was looking anywhere he could for a reliable option at third base, Didier got an extended audition there. He started eight games and showed some promise offensively, but wound up hitting only .185 (5-for-27) in games he started. He struggled in the field, committing five errors in those eight games.
Since then, Didier has been to the plate a grand total of 33 times and hasn’t started a game.
Now he has a chance to contribute again, and Mainieri thinks Didier is a different player this time around.
“This will be a great opportunity for him – one that he’s waited a long time for,” Mainieri said. “He had a pretty good opportunity as a redshirt freshman, and he did some good things but also did some things that didn’t warrant him staying in the lineup.
“He’s a man now. He’s been here for four years. He’s endured a lot of disappointment. I just get the sense that he has the right attitude now.”
That becomes clear when you talk to Didier, the son of longtime Major League catcher Bob Didier and the grandson of Mel Didier, a two-sport LSU letterman and veteran MLB scout.
“Whatever role or capacity Coach has needed me to be, I was going to do that as well as I could,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a chance like this and I want to use it to help us win games and get where we want to be this season.”
How can Didier help LSU? By competing every time he steps in the batter’s box.
During his brief starting stint two years ago, Didier struggled with strikeouts -- 10 in 27 at-bats -- and stranding runners in scoring position.
|Didier: 2 career home runs have been memorable -- one in his first career AB and the Tigers' first long fly this season.|
With the current Tigers’ lineup, any hit, walk, RBI or even productive out they can get from the bottom third of the batting order where Didier is likely to hit is a major plus.
“I want to give us tough at-bats and never be an easy out,” Didier said. “If I can give us a tough out, that helps us be a lineup that a pitcher has to worry about 1-9.”
Added Mainieri, “I want to see him dig into that batter’s box and battle that pitcher and give us quality at-bats.”
Through three seasons and 24 games, Didier has delivered a pair of notable hits that he can remember forever.
In his first and only at-bat as a freshman in 2009, Didier uncorked a solo home run to right field in the second game ever played at the new Alex Box Stadium. Soon after that he underwent elbow reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery and missed the rest of the Tigers’ national championship campaign.
And then earlier this season, Didier smacked LSU’s first long ball of the season.
Could there be more memories to add? One of his best friends thinks so.
“He’s a good left-handed bat and we need as many of those as we can get,” Dozar said. “He’s shown moments when he shown some really good pop and I think he’s ready to make a contribution for us now.
“I’m happy for him because he’s worked hard and paid a lot of dues. I’d like to see him take this opportunity and run with it.”
ON DECK: ULL at LSU
Center field shuffle
Scary injury ends Sciambra's season