BATON ROUGE, La. — On opening night, Bryce Jordan became the embodiment of baseball. Not just LSU baseball, but the sport as a whole.
All of the emotions baseball provides us — from total frustration to pure joy — were bottled up and fed to the redshirt junior in the Tigers’ 7-6 season-opening win over Notre Dame.
First, the joy.
Jordan was playing baseball, period, for the first time since June 2016. His last appearance was against eventual national champion Coastal Carolina in LSU’s penultimate game of that season. He tore his right ACL in a freak practice mishap a month before the 2017 season, forcing him to miss the year and LSU’s run to the College World Series.
After a year off, even an 0-for-4 night would have felt good. Jordan’s night turned out to be a whole lot more interesting than that.
The initial joy quickly melted away into frustration.
There was nothing casual about Jordan’s first at-bat in two years. He stepped in with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first and LSU already facing a 1-0 deficit. The inning ended harmlessly on his sky-high pop fly to right field.
“I was visualizing myself [hitting a grand slam],” Jordan said. “And then it didn’t work out. I came a little late on my swing.”
And then even more frustration.
With Hunter Feduccia out due to injury, Jordan was asked to start at catcher — the first time he’s done so since the 2014 Louisiana high school state championship game. Unfortunately, it showed.
Jordan struggled, allowing two passed balls. Notre Dame leadoff man Cole Daily proved to be a particularly difficult archnemesis, easily swiping three bases off of the rusty catcher.
“I made a few mistakes back there,” Jordan said. “But I’m going to go in and watch what I did wrong [on tape] and take a few tips. I couldn’t get to some of the balls that I should have got to. I know I can play better.”
There was even a bit of literal pain thrown in when Jordan took a foul ball off the helmet in the ninth inning.
But those troubles only made the taste of joy that much sweeter.
As the lifeless Tigers trailed 6-0 in the sixth inning, Jordan again stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded. This time, he delivered a line drive that rocketed out of the park in only 4 seconds.
Would you look at that moonshot by @brycejordan200! What a beaut! LSU is within two in the bottom of the sixth at The Box!
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) February 17, 2018
It was his first hit since 2016, and the first grand slam of his LSU career.
“It was a good way to get it started,” Jordan said. “I had to get out of that funk.”
Oddly enough, Bryce wasn’t the Jordan who demonstrated the most emotion after the grand slam. That was twin brother Beau, who was waiting on deck. Beau flung his bat to the ground and pumped his fist at least five times, screaming with delight as Bryce rounded the bases.
“I’m so excited for him,” Beau said. “He could be any other player and I’d be excited for him. But he’s my brother, so it’s a really special moment. I wish I would have followed him up with one.”
Beau had good reason to be fired up. He knows all too well what his twin went through to get back onto the diamond. He had to live with it.
“Having him around the house after the surgery was really annoying. He would complain about everything,” Beau said with a laugh. “But it’s a long, long process. I’ve had my share of injuries. It’s not a fun process. He worked his butt off.”
Fittingly, Bryce was the last player to touch the ball on this roller-coaster night, squeezing his mitt around Austin Bain’s game-clinching strikeout. Two comebacks — one from a devastating knee injury, the other from a 6-0 deficit — were completed at once.
For Bryce Jordan, and the rest of us, baseball is finally back. And what a joy it is.