By T. Scott Boatright
College Baseball Hall of Fame coach Wilbert Ellis has received his annual marching orders, and he’s headed back to a familiar site.
As he’s done for nearly 25 years now, Ellis is packing his bags to serve as a Super Regional Director, this time co-directing the NCAA Baseball Tournament in Baton Rouge where SEC foes LSU and Kentucky will do battle with a berth to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, at stake.
Ellis will serve as Super Regional co-director along with Jacksonville State Athletics Director George Seitz
It won’t be the first time for Ellis to serve as NCAA Super Regional Director at LSU.
“I’ve gone to so many places for the Super Regionals,” Ellis said. “This will be my fourth or fifth time down at LSU. The first time I served as a Super Regional director there was at the old Alex Box Stadium.
“But it’s exciting and I’m thrilled about being able to go back down there. I’ll be able to see and talk to my old friends like (former LSU baseball coaches) Skip Bertman and Paul Mainieri, and so many others. When you’ve been overseeing Super Regionals as long as I have, you make a lot of friends and build a lot of relationships. And doing it at LSU is always a good time.”
Ellis will travel to Baton Rouge Thursday morning and will begin work on Friday morning.
“The teams will practice Friday morning and then our administrative meetings will start after those practices,” Ellis said. “What happens is that you have people in charge of different areas of the Super Regional – field upkeep, umpires, game management, marketing and all of that, and they’re overseen by a tournament director appointed by the NCAA.
“And that guy will be under us because we’ve both done this at Regionals and Super Regionals so many times. He keeps everything under the NCAA guidelines and then reports to us directly.”
Ellis said that because LSU hosted an NCAA Baseball Regional last week, the whole operation team is already in place.
“It’s the same people who did that during LSU’s home games throughout the season, but in the postseason they fall under the NCAA umbrella and guidance. And we’re the ones who take care of that – overseeing the operations of the whole tournament.”
Ellis said this won’t be the first time he’s worked with LSU coach Jay Johnson while overseeing a Super Regional.
“I directed a Super Regional there when he was head coach at Arizona,” Ellis said. “This my first time working with George Seitz as a co-director, but I’ve already worked with a Super Regional Johnson coached in. He’s a good guy and a good coach.”
Ellis said the Super Regional will be sold out.
“They’re about sold out now,” Ellis said. “I talked to someone who said they pretty much already are except for a few tickets that were held back, but as soon as those are cut loose they’ll be snatched up in a hurry. I expect a more than capacity kind of crowd, and one of those loud, crazy and fun LSU crowds. This is the time of year LSU baseball fans live for.
“Outside of the stadium there will be thousands of more fans tailgating and watching on the big TV screens. I know of a lot of people from around here in north Louisiana that will be down there. Some will have tickets, and some will be part of that crowd outside watching on the big screen TVs and tailgating.”
Ellis’ job is to make sure the Super Regional is prepared for all circumstances. He just hopes there’s one unknown that won’t come into play.
“We’re already watching the weather really hard,” Ellis said. “Right now there’s a chance of thunderstorms on Saturday, but hopefully we can get past those and not get that day’s game pushed back. After that the rain chances go down for Sunday and Monday if they need to play a third game.”
But Ellis will take all the good working the Super Regional brings without worry about things that can’t be controlled like weather.
“I love this time of year and the atmosphere you have at these Super Regionals. This will not only bring back some great memories — it helps me feel young again. I just love it.”
And soon Ellis will be on the road again, this time for his annual journey to Omaha, Nebraska to conduct his annual Youth Clinic held in conjunction with the College World Series.
“We’ll do like we always do at the Youth Clinic — teach fundamentals about baseball but also fundamentals about life and things like the importance of kids continuing their education and staying away from drugs and that kind of thing.
“I’ll be up there for a good bit, so I’ll see a lot of baseball, too, even if I don’t stay through the whole thing.”