LSU all-American outfielder Mikie Mahtook said Wednesday he is ready to begin his pro career with the Tampa Bay Rays, but the decision to forego his senior season and sign a pro contract was not an easy one.
“That’s why I went all the way down to the deadline,” said Mahtook, a first-round selection who signed with the Rays just before the 11 p.m. CT Monday deadline for MLB draft choices to declare their intentions. “LSU has been a great place for me. The money wasn’t the issue for me. The money will be there if I’m successful in baseball. It was more about what I wanted to do and what I was more comfortable doing. Leaving all of this behind (at LSU) is tough for me. My mom and I talked tirelessly all summer about what we needed to do. This is what we’ve decided was the best option for me.
“It was really nerve-racking. I was nervous and excited. I knew that at this point in my life it was the biggest decision I had to make. I weighed the pros and cons. We could have made a book on all the pros and cons we came up with and all the situations that would occur if I come back or if I sign. It wasn’t a rash decision and we took our time with it.”
Mahtook, the 31st overall selection in the draft, said that he called LSU coach Paul Mainieri immediately after he agreed to terms with the Rays.
“Coach Mainieri has been awesome for me,” Mahtook said. “He’s been more than a coach; he’s been a mentor for me. He gave me the opportunity to come here, believed in me and gave me a shot my freshman year. I will always have a special place in my heart for him. Outside of my mom and immediate family, I felt he was the next person who should know about my decision. I called him and told him about it, and he was 100 percent supportive of me. It was really emotional and I teared up a little bit, but that’s the type of relationship we have.”
Mahtook, a native of Lafayette, La., was a 2011 first-team all-American, and he completed the regular season as the SEC leader in slugging percentage (.709), walks (41), triples (5) and steals (29). He was No. 2 in the SEC in batting average (.383), home runs (14), total bases (139), on-base percentage (.496) and runs scored (61) and No. 3 in the league in RBI (56).
Mahtook, who was also named to the 2011 SEC all-Defensive Team, batted .441 (26-for-59) in the final 15 games of the season with four doubles, two triples, four homers, 18 RBI, 19 runs and eight steals.
As a true freshman outfielder, he was instrumental in LSU’s drive to the 2009 College World Series title, providing the game-winning hit in the 11th inning of Game 1 of the CWS Finals versus Texas.
He finished his three-year LSU career with a .344 batting average, and he ranks No. 2 in school annals in triples with 12 and No. 5 in stolen bases with 60.
Mahtook, who said he will play in an instructional league this fall, plans to maintain his strong connection to LSU throughout his professional career.
“I will forever be a Tiger,” Mahtook said. “I grew up one. My father (Mike) and uncle (Robbie) played football here. My mother (Mary Ann) went to school here. I will come to as many football games as possible, even if that means flying in on game day. If I can make baseball games before the season, I will be here. I will always consider myself a part of the LSU family.”