Perhaps it was a premonition.
Keith Cranford, father of Zachary High shortstop Collier Cranford, posted a series of pictures on his Twitter account Monday of his then young son dressed in an LSU uniform, seated in old Alex Box Stadium along with a photo of together with LSU coach Paul Mainieri.
Fast-forward more than a decade later and Collier Cranford brought those keepsakes full circle when the 6-foot, 170-pound rising senior committed to LSU over Mississippi State.
“Growing up as a baseball player in Louisiana, LSU baseball’s just a very deal to everyone,” Collier said. “It’s a dream where everyone grows up wanting to put on that LSU uniform and play as a Tiger. It’s really surreal now that I’m getting this chance. It’s just a blessing.”
Cranford said after a week of deliberating with his parents, he called Mainieri on Monday morning to officially join the program.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “It’s just a blessing. It was exciting.”
Cranford became the second member of Zachary’s baseball team to commit to LSU, joining senior catcher Alex Milazzo.
“Collier’s one of the hardest working and coachable kids in our program,” Zachary baseball coach Jacob Fisher said. “He never settles and is always looking to get better on the field and off the field as a person.”
The objective to play college baseball has been one Cranford said he’s always pursued, one that’s come into focus since his career reached the high school level.
“As I got closer and worked harder, I got to high school and realized it was an attainable goal,” Cranford said. “Then I started to work even harder. It’s just been a goal of mine my whole life.”
Cranford said he visited Mississippi State and drew on his own experiences involving LSU but wanted to base his decision on something more than first-class facilities and rock-solid traditions.
“I wanted to focus on the people I’m going to be around every day,” he said. “I just connected really well with (LSU assistant) coach (Nolan) Cain and coach Paul Mainieri. At the end of the day it really helped that LSU was so close. My family can come and watch me anytime they wanted to. That was really the deciding factor, plus the combination of other things.”
Cranford has been a starter at Zachary the past two years, earning first team All-District 4-5A honors after the No. 1 seeded Broncos (35-4) were knocked out of the Class 5A state playoffs by league foe Central in the quarterfinal round.
Cranford was one of Zachary’s top offensive threats with a .393 batting average, .704 slugging percentage and .463 on-base percentage. More than half of his 42 hits went for extra bases with 13 doubles, 5 triples and 5 homers.
He also drove in 37 runs and stole 18 bases.
“I know (junior infielder) Josh Smith will be there for another year and I’m sure he’ll get drafted,” Cranford said. “The way they broke it down was that the best nine (players) will play. You’re not given anything, and everything is earned. They said I’ll get that opportunity to make an early impact with playing time.
“Everything just came together perfectly,” said Cranford, who played this summer for The Chaos travel team, coached by former LSU All-American Ben McDonald. “It wasn’t a set deal where I was making a decision by this date. The way I see it, everything just worked out perfectly.”