by Doug Ireland

Menard alumnus Ronnie Rantz, a star pitcher and tight end for the Eagles in the late 1980s, is still throwing strikes.

His latest pitch is quite spectacular. The 51-year-old lefty, now based in Baton Rouge where he was a pitcher for two LSU College World Series championship teams (1991, 1993), has a lot of pop on his fastball.

“Champions of the Diamond” is a spectacular showcase on Tuesday night, Jan. 9, at the L’Auberge Baton Rouge Event Center smack dab over the east bank of the Mississippi River.

It’s baseball-centric, naturally. While Rantz is a man of all seasons, his bond with the grand ole game is deep. He was a flame-throwing teenager, notably throwing a no-hitter for the Alexandria team in the opening game of the 1987 Dixie Pre-Majors World Series at Bringhurst Park, but losing 1-0 to future MLB second-round pick Rusty Rugg of Downsville and the Louisiana All-Stars team.

What? The only run scored in the top of the first. Leadoff muffed pop up, a badly-aimed Rantz pickoff at first, then another at second. Those paled in comparison to the third error, a throw from thecenterfielder intended to easily nail the baserunner at third – except it sailed way high and into the stands, allowing the runner to cruise home.

It’s a dubious memory, one Rantz grins about sheepishly as he recounts his errant tosses. It will not come up during his latest sensational fundraising event for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation.

The star power in the house on Jan. 9 will be immense. The premise: all of the featured guests have been part of World Series-winning teams either at the major college level or in Major League Baseball – or both.

Nearly all have Louisiana roots. The one who doesn’t has friends in Baton Rouge. He’s pretty famous.

Roger Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher (nobody’s won as many), anchored the CWS champion Texas Longhorns staff in 1983, then was the ace for the New York Yankees’ World Series champs in 1999 and 2000.

Another multi-level champ: Baton Rouge native Ryan Theriot, an infielder for LSU’s 2000 CWS winners who won it all in MLB in 2011 for the St. Louis Cardinals and a year later with the San Francisco Giants.

The other big league world championship ring owner was showing off his Atlanta Braves 2021 World Series ring in Natchitoches last summer, and he’ll be sporting it in 2024 and beyond as the new Los Angeles Angels manager. Ron Washington was the third base coach for the Braves in their recent Series triumph. The New Orleans native was also a dropped pop-up away from winning the 2011 Series as Texas Rangers manager, which would have denied Theriot’s first major league world title.

“Wash” is worth any admission price on his own. Baseball does not have a more charming personality, sure to deliver some hilarious quips when he’s in the spotlight on Jan. 9.

But Skip Bertman is right there with him. The iconic LSU baseball coach, closing in on his 86 th birthday in May, is still a spellbinding presence in any room, even one that seats 1,200 people. He is the architect of the LSU baseball machine and guided five Tigers’ teams to CWS superiority in 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 2000.

One of Washington’s colleagues in the LSHOF Class of 2023 is Paul Mainieri, who steered the Tigers to a 2009 CWS win and many more accomplishments.

The latest LSU skipper to stand atop the college baseball world is Jay Johnson, whose team dominated college baseball most of last spring and when it mattered most in Omaha last June. His most dynamic player, Dylan Crews, is also taking part in the “Champions of the Diamond” event.

A third Class of 2023 LSHOF inductee, pitcher Paul Byrd, was the ace of LSU’s 1991 CWS championship team and will share those memories Jan. 9.

Mike Bianco was the catcher for LSU in 1989 when Bertman’s Tigers finished third in Omaha. He helped LSU win the CWS as an assistant coach in 1993, 1996 and 1997, and in 2022 pulled off one of the great June runs in college history, when his Ole Miss Rebels were among the last teams invited to the NCAA postseason and proceeded to take it all in Omaha.

Maybe we’ve saved the best (LSU) player for last. Many experts believe Todd Walker’s career in TIgertown takes a back seat to no other position player. It culminated with the 1993 CWS title and was coupled with a highlight-filled 13 seasons in MLB. Now he’s one of the premiere ESPN college baseball analysts – and an avid tennis and pickleball player, too.

If you love baseball, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Baton Rouge will be aglow with the excitement of the inauguration events for new Gov. Jeff Landry and other state leaders a day earlier, but with Clemens, Crews, Washington, Bertman, Walker and the rest, the “Champions of the Diamond” spectacular will have more national star power, and many more laughs.

Individual tickets and tables are available at, and while they carry a cost, the memories will be priceless.

 Banner Ad
Cunningham Copiers
Generac Banner Ad for Affiliate Link
Bayou Mosquito Licensed to Kill Banner 12.14.20