The bat makes contact with the ball, and the small, round object is sent sharply up the middle of the diamond.
It’s time for LSU senior infielder Kramer Robertson to get to work.
At first, it doesn’t look like he can make the play. The ball was hit well, and Robertson has a lot of ground to cover to stop it from going to the outfield.
But by now, he’s flying like a gazelle and is eating up ground – on a collision course with the baseball’s future path.
He leans forward and swipes his glove down toward the infield dirt. The baseball rolls into it the netting of the glove at a high rate of speed, making a small crunch sound, then a smack.
The crunch are Robertson’s spikes smashing the infield dirt. The smack is the ball meeting leather and finding its temporary home in Robertson’s gloved left hand.
As soon as the baseball finds the glove, Robertson jolts his body upward – quick as a cat.
He regains his balance, thrusts his body forward and slings the baseball to first base with his powerful right arm.
By that time, the runner was well down the first base line, and it was going to be a close play.
He was out.
Robertson’s throw beat the batter by a half a step.
“He’s out of there!” the umpire shrieked, which officially signaled the end to the play.
The fans in Alex Box Stadium went nuts.
Yet again, Robertson had made the amazing play look routine.
Yet again, Robertson proved to an opponent why he is one of the most beloved players in the recent history of the LSU Baseball program.
Indeed, Tiger fans are thrilled about having another season with the talented infielder on the diamond – one of the top returning players in the SEC.
Robertson was a Second-Team All-American last year, who was drafted in the 32nd Round of the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians.
He said he never seriously negotiated with the pros, because he had one focus in mind – guiding the Tigers to the College World Series, and hopefully, winning the whole thing while there.
“When you play baseball here, the goal is always to be one of the last teams playing when the season comes to an end,” Robertson said during the offseason. “You don’t shy away from the expectations. You expect them and you embrace them. I feel lucky to be part of a program that everyone expects to compete for championships. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
That gritty, winning personality is firmly entrenched in Robertson’s DNA.
By now, just about everyone knows the story (it’s said on televised games at least 10 times per broadcast).
Yes, Robertson is the son of storied Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, and yes, Mulkey was a fantastic athlete in her day – a former Olympic gold medalist. Robertson’s genes are double-dipped in athletic prowess, because his dad, Randy Robertson, was a former college quarterback who played for Louisiana Tech.
But what many don’t know, nor appreciate from Robertson is his work ethic and drive to be better every, single day.
Coming into LSU, Robertson struggled offensively, batting just .200 as a freshman in 2014, then .232 in 2015 as a sophomore.
But Robertson never faltered.
He spent hours, upon hours in the batting cages in the summer and fall after the 2015 season, which made him a better, more complete hitter.
In 2016, Robertson burst onto the scene, starting all 66 of LSU’s games, batting .324 with 39 RBI and 14 stolen bases.
Robertson’s numbers were even better in the clutch. He hit .364 with runners in scoring position, and had several late-game hits to clinch wins.
“He’s one of the hardest working kids you’ll ever see,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said at media day when asked about Robertson. “He’s come a long way, and he deserves every ounce of that success that’s come his way.”
But Robertson isn’t content.
He wants more.
Robertson said he again worked tirelessly over the summer to polish his game and to make himself into a more versatile player.
Over Christmas break, while many other students were sipping eggnog and sleeping until noon, Robertson was grinding.
He went back home to Texas, and worked tirelessly, fielding grounders, taking batting practice and doing anything possible to get himself ready for the season, which rolls into high gear in the coming months.
Robertson said the extra work was necessary, because he wouldn’t have been able to rest or have fun if he knew he wasn’t doing his best to stay active.
That work ethic, Mainieri said, is why Robertson is a special player.
That work ethic is why when the smack of the bat is heard, LSU fans stay on the edge of their seats, because they know Robertson can often make the impossible, possible again.
Photo: DIG file.