Make no mistake about it, the 2023 LSU Baseball team on paper has the potential to have a memorable season.
One of the biggest reasons for that is the incoming freshmen that are expected to not only compete for playing time, but outright starting positions.
A soft-spoken, powerful hitter out of Roaring Springs, Pennsylvania is at the top of that list.
The highest rated recruit to make it on campus from the 2022 class, outfielder Paxton Kling came to LSU after a phenomenal career at Central High School. Rated as the sixth-best overall player in the country according to Perfect Game (PG), Kling played in the PG All-American Classic and was a member of the 2021 18U USA National Team.
Now on campus in Baton Rouge and with a full fall baseball pre-season under his belt, the 6-2, 210-pound Kling is expected to battle for the starting spot in right field for Jay Johnson’s squad as the Tigers open their season Feb. 17 at home against Western Michigan.
“It’s special to be here,” Kling said.
“Everybody knows that. To me, the simplest stuff remains amazing. I get to take batting practice on the field at Alex Box Stadium (he said grinning). “The biggest thing for me is to continue to progress mentally. That’s one of the biggest things people coming from high school to the collegiate game struggle with at the beginning of their careers. Coach Johnson has been a valuable tool for me to help with that transition.”
Johnson echoed his star outfielder’s thoughts.
“A lot of our young guys (including Kling) could all play in the Major Leagues someday from just a pure talent standpoint,” he said.
“The biggest jump that they will make in terms of their baseball career in terms of what’s different from where they were and where they are now is right now. Their ability to just slow down and manage themselves and get focused on the task at hand is key."
“They have to have the ability to recover when they get kicked in the teeth because they will get kicked in the teeth. No matter how good they are, the Southeastern Conference schedule we are going to play is going to do that. I’ve already seen great strides in doing that and I know there is going to be more. I’m super pumped where all the young players can go.”
Kling said the mental adjustments are the key.
“Once you slow the game down you allow your talents to take over,” he said.
“I’ve leaned on the older guys like Dylan Crews and Brayden Jobert a lot. Learn from their experiences. Also, you get the chance to hit in a lineup with those guys. My goal is to do my thing and if we all do our things, we are going to do some special things.”