Ping. Thud. Repeat.
There are no fans packed into Tiger Park. No teammates, decked out in rally hats, scream encouragement from the dugout as sophomore outfielder Emily Griggs grinds through rep after rep in the batting cages to perfect her bunt.
The endless drive for improvement is nothing new for the Wichita, Kansas, native, who has demonstrated her relentless work ethic time and time again since her days at Maize High School.
“She always works so hard and is very driven,” said Maize High School coach [Jenny] Meirowsky. “She always wants to do her best and the best for her team … She raised the bar all four years she was here.”
At a first glance, not much seems to have changed for Griggs since high school with her hitting just one spot lower in the lineup at LSU and making a home for herself behind the Eye of the Tiger painted in familiar center field.
But looks can be deceiving.
Just one year ago, Griggs hit .343 in the No. 9 hole and started 61 games at left field with a .976 fielding percentage as she waited her turn behind All-American center fielder A.J. Andrews and then-sophomore outfielder Bailey Landry.
Andrews and Landry commanded the top two spots in the order last season, combining for 156 hits and 70 walks while averaging a .482 on-base percentage.
“When she came in, that’s where you were expecting her to be – somewhere in the top,” said volunteer assistant coach Kara Dill, who primarily coaches the Tigers’ slappers. “But A.J. and Bailey were just so good at the No. 1 and No. 2 that she never got that opportunity last year.”
Andrews’ graduation presented an opening for Griggs as the former Tiger’s protégé, but not her “replacement” according to Griggs and Landry.
For four seasons, Andrews monopolized the leadoff spot and her position in centerfield, hitting .321 in her career while maintaining a .959 fielding percentage with 257 putouts.
Andrews was more than an All-American center fielder for the Tigers. She epitomized leadership from her rendition of the Muhammad Ali speech before home games to her patient approach as she mentored younger players, including Griggs.
During the fall of 2014 and other practices, Andrews taught Griggs the ropes of being a Southeastern Conference center fielder along with certain do’s and don’ts specific to being Tiger outfielder.
“We miss her,” Griggs said. “ She showed us a lot of what we need to do and how to lead in a good way by [her] example.”
But Griggs has stepped up with her own version of leadership during her sophomore campaign, a combination of vocal direction and leading by example on and off the field.
For example at the plate, Griggs has made the move from the No. 9 spot, where she acted a pre-leadoff hitter before Andrews, to alternating between No. 1 and No. 2.
Griggs spent the offseason season, including a stint with the U.S. National program, preparing for the move by improving her bunt.
“It’s definitely a different mentality,” Dill said. “ In the No. 2, we are looking for the leadoff to get on and for her to move them over, which is why the bunt a lot more crucial for her this year.”
The sophomore’s dedication to the game and her determination to “do whatever it takes” lays the foundation for her influence as a leader, according to LSU head coach Beth Torina.
Despite the pressure put on her as the No. 2 hitter and an organizer of the defense at center, Griggs retains her quirky, bubbly personality that pulls in teammates, coaches, fans and media members alike.
From chasing Torina’s children around the bases after games to cracking jokes mid-interview, Griggs’ personality is infectious.
“She is just a fun person to be around,” Meirowsky said. “She just had that quality about her that made practice fun all the time.”
Photo courtesy LSU Sports Information