One summer evening back in 2002, Wally Pontiff went to bed as Everybody's All American. He never woke up.
It's something that I have never understood, and am still not capable of understanding. Wally Pontiff was in the prime of life. He was a beloved team leader, a great player, and still just a boy. He was just 21 years old, and he thought he had his whole life ahead of him. Instead, a genetic heart condition would rob him of that future.
For ten years, LSU baseball has kept his memory alive by staging the Wally Pontiff Classic. Memories fade, but LSU has worked hard to keep Wally's memory alive and still part of the program. They do a lot of things right, but nothing as right as the Classic.
He is the angel of LSU baseball now. Every time an opposing fly ball drifts just foul or a curveball hangs a little too much, there is Wally. There is magic in Alex Box, and he is the source of that. His retired number 31 hangs on the outfield wall* as a reminder that these are just kids playing a game. We want to win, but we also want all of the untold wonders of the future for each competitor.
Usually, for a game preview, I write a snarky piece that gently mocks the opposing team and gives me an excuse to link some obscure band. For the Wally Pontiff Classic, I ask that you take a moment to remember Wally and the joy he brought you when he played. I want you to think of all of the little kids who dream of growing up and wearing the purple and gold. And all of those kids wearing purple and gold who still have growing up to do.
Watch the YouTube, cry a little bit, and then donate some of your money to the Wally Pontiff Foundation. It's why we're playing this game. All proceeds go to the Foundation.
31 wins for #31 tonight.
PodKATT: There are a few interesting things happening tonight at the Zeph that are worth mentioning. Kurt McCune, sidelined all season with back problems, is returning to the mound and will start tonight. His development is crucial with the season ending injury to midweek starter Russell Reynolds last week. Also of note, Southern coach Rodger Cador will not be in attendance at either game this week due to a meeting with MLB commissioner Bud Selig in Milwaukee.
Tonight's game will be carried live on Cox Sports at 7pm.
*Forgive Poseur, it's been a while since he's been to an LSU baseball game. Pontiff's number no longer hangs on the outfield wall (His and the other retired numbers never made the transition to the New Alex Box outfield wall) While Bertman and McDonald's numbers now hang on the walls of the stadium's upper deck, Pontiff was instead memorialized this season with the opening of The Wally Pontiff Jr. Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year.