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BATON ROUGE – There’s no place like Tiger Stadium on a fall Saturday night, especially when Garth Brook’s “Callin’ Baton Rouge” is played shortly before kickoff at every home football game.
Last Saturday night, there was no football game, but it sure felt and sounded like one as Brooks sang “Callin’ Baton Rouge” live in front of a sold-out crowd of 102,000 at Deaf Valley for the first time.
“That was even better than I could have ever dreamed it could be,” Brooks said after ending the song and exhaling mightily. Then fans began chanting, “L-S-U … L-S-U” as they did most of the night.
Brooks, 60, clearly enjoyed the show as much as those watching it. After one of many songs in which the crowd enthusiastically sang along, he said, “That’s it. I’m moving here.”
Fellow country music legend and Brooks’ wife Trisha Yearwood, a native of Monticello, Georgia, had no comment on that after joining him on stage to sing late in the show. The couple lives in the Nashville area now and has lived in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area, where Brooks is from.
“Welcome to heaven on earth,” Brooks, an Oklahoma State graduate, told his wife on stage.
New LSU football coach Brian Kelly attended the concert. He was so looking forward to it that he brought it up in his introductory press conference in December.
“We got Garth Brooks coming,” Kelly said at the time. “I’m pretty excited about that. That could be really cool.”
Kelly could have walked to the concert from his new home near the campus, which would have been the best strategy. Driving there from his neighborhood – less than a mile from the stadium – and parking took some concertgoers an hour or more.
The concert was the main event of a busy schedule on the LSU campus, and in the area Saturday as the No. 22 LSU baseball team hosted No. 14 Georgia, and the New Orleans Jazz Fest returned for the first time since 2019 after a three-year layoff because of COVID-19.
Georgia won, 12-7, Saturday in front of 11,067 just down the street from Tiger Stadium at Alex Box Stadium.
But LSU got a boost Sunday with a pep talk from former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who also threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Tigers won 4-3 with a walk-off, two-run home run in the ninth from Cade Doughty and two before that from Dylan Crews, who has 13 on the season.
LSU (29-14), which beat Georgia 6-2 on Friday in the series opener, moved into a four-way tie for third place in the SEC with Georgia, No. 19 Auburn and No. 21 Texas A&M at 12-9 behind No. 1 Tennessee (40-4, 19-2) and No. 5 Arkansas (34-10, 14-7).
Jacob Berry, seen below wearing No. 14 with an uncanny resemblance to Brees, singled to lead off the LSU ninth, bringing up Doughty, who hit his 10th home run.
“I know the brand of baseball we play here,” Brees, a Purdue alum, said as he huddled with the Tigers before the game. “I know the reputation this place has. I know the expectations each and every year. Find a way to get back to the College World Series and win a damn championship, OK. That’s why you came here.”
It was not Brees’ first LSU baseball game. Not long after signing as a free agent with the Saints in 2006, he threw out a ceremonial first pitch before LSU beat Southeastern Louisiana, 5-4, at Zephyr Field in Metairie. In 2009, LSU won its sixth national championship in baseball, and eight months later, Brees and the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, with Brees taking the MVP award. LSU has not been back to the College World Series since 2017. It lost a Super Regional to Tennessee last season before coach Paul Mainieri retired.
“The best team I was ever a part of, the guys cared about each other the most, and that’s what type of atmosphere you have to create,” Brees said.
“Awesome for him to come down,” LSU first-year coach Jay Johnson said Sunday after his win. “Really, really cool. Just a competitor, a winner. His work habits, toughness – he’s everything we want to impart on our players. There’s no better example of that than Drew Brees.”
LSU, which swept Missouri a week ago at home, has won five of its last six SEC games to climb into the mix in the standings. Georgia entered the series No. 4 in the nation in Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The Tigers play at Alabama (25-20, 9-12) Friday through Sunday. Three weekends remain in the SEC regular season.
“I’m really proud of our team for how they’ve navigated this schedule,” Johnson said. “Getting this two-out-of-three against Georgia was huge.”
It was that kind of a weekend, too.