05/21/2007 3:12 PM ET
Ryan Theriot is finding his place
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
Ryan Theriot of the Chicago Cubs has been playing pro baseball for seven years now, accustomed to revolving rosters with players routinely coming and going. Teammates move up and down all the time it seems, new ones signed, old ones released.
Ryan Theriot was part of the LSU College World Series championship team in 2000. (Spencer Green/AP)
In college at LSU, it wasn't like that. And that, in large measure, was what led Theriot and his buddies to the College World Series championship in 2000.
"It was awesome, being with guys for two or three years leading up to it," Theriot said. "It was a bonding experience. Everybody was so close. That's what made it unique."
The championship was the fifth in 10 years for coach Skip Bertman and one of a number for Theriot, who also won titles at Lansing and Daytona Beach after being drafted by the Cubs in the third round of the 2001 First Year Player Draft.
Today, seven years after the fact, the LSU Tigers of 2000, have gone their separate ways. Seven or eight were drafted. Outfielder Brad Hawpe has been a solid contributor with the Colorado Rockies. Pitcher Trey Hodges spent some time with the Atlanta Braves. Infielder Mike Fontenot is in the Cubs organization, Brian Tallet is in Toronto's bullpen.
They call each other all the time, a bunch of buddies who shared a championship and brought another title to the school that sent Joe Adcock and Alvin Dark, among others, to the Majors years ago, and Albert Belle, Paul Byrd and Todd Walker more recently.
That championship season is etched in Theriot's mind. He remembers how LSU got hot late in the year and arrived at the College World Series under a full head of steam.
"We won out, won the last 13 games," he said. "In the College Series, we beat Texas in the opener and then we beat Southern Cal with Mark Prior (now a teammate with the Cubs). We got to him early."
After that, LSU defeated Florida State to reach the title game against Stanford.
"In those days, it was one and done," Theriot said. "Now they play two out of three."
In the sudden death championship game, the Tigers found themselves on life support, trailing 5-2 after seven innings. LSU drew even with three in the eighth. Theriot led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and came around to score the winning run on a hit by Brad Cresse, who had been stuck in a 1-for-12 slump before delivering the winning hit.
"You can't get better than that," Theriot said. "We went nuts. We celebrated all night. The city of Baton Rouge went crazy when we got home. They greeted us at the airport. There were 20,000 fans in the field house. There was a banquet and a parade."
Theriot was picked at shortstop on the all-tournament team and then was selected in the third round of the 2001 draft by the Cubs. He moved through the Chicago system, reaching the Majors briefly two years ago and then had three stints with the Cubs last season when he batted .328 in 53 games.
His versatility impressed the team and he's been used at second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield.
"The kid can swing the bat and he's got some energy," manager Lou Piniella said. "I like the way he plays the game."
Theriot pieced together a career-best nine-game hitting streak and had nine multi-hit games as he battled to become a regular in Piniella's sometimes patchwork lineup.
The more he played, the more he impressed, and it seemed he finally would be getting off the Minor League shuttle between Chicago and Triple-A Iowa. That would suit Theriot just fine.
"The College World Series was my first trip to Omaha," he said. "I've been back there a number of times, but it's not quite the same."
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York City.