The documentary titled, Hold the Rope premiered on the SEC Network on Monday, May 24th, and for many long-time LSU baseball fans it was a long-time coming. Skip Bertman served as the athletics director of LSU from 2001 to 2008 and before that he had led the Louisiana State University Baseball team to national titles in 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 2000. Again, for many Tigers sports fans it wasn’t a question of “why” when it came to a Skip Bertman documentary, it was a question of “what took them so long?”
The documentary, which premiered to great acclaim by both die-hard LSU sports fans and casual viewers alike, gave an hour-long look at how coach Skip Bertman revolutionized the school’s baseball program and turned the Alex Box Stadium into the near-religious landmark it is today. This was made possible by the cooperation of SEC associate commissioner Herb Vincent, who was not only LSU’s sports information director from 1988-2000 but he was also responsible for selling the idea of a documentary to ESPN and the SEC Network three years ago.
For the documentary, a total of 89 people were interviewed by Marc Kinderman, the executive producer of Orange Lion Productions, among those were former athletes who played under Bertman, fellow coaches, friends, family members, and members of the media who covered his historic career over the years. One player who has a special tie to Bertman during his time at LSU was the all-time great Ben McDonald, who spoke to ESPN’s Front Row ahead of the documentary’s premiere to attribute his professional success to Coach Bertman’s immense vision.
McDonald, the legendary LSU Baseball player who is one of only four LSU Tigers to have had his baseball jersey retired by the school, laid a lot of the groundwork for what would eventually become a hallmark of the University. McDonald said of his old coach, “when I think about Skip, I just think of a visionary. Playing for him at the time, nobody knew what was eventually going to happen, that he would become one of the greatest coaches of all time. He changed college baseball forever. I’ve said this before, but I really feel like Skip is probably the most important sports figure to ever be acquainted with LSU. Because you look at what he did as a baseball coach, and then as an athletic director, and I truly feel he’s the most important person in the history of LSU Athletics.”
After his time as coach, Bertman made monumental decisions as athletic director; for instance, he hired four coaches who went on to win LSU five national championships. Those hires were Les Miles winning a national championship in football in 2007, Paul Mainieri in baseball in 2009, Dennis Shaver in women’s track in 2008 and 2012, and Chuck Winstead in men’s golf in 2015. When it comes to selecting players for both the field and sidelines, it cannot be overstated how good Coach Bertman’s eye is. LSU third baseman Wally McMakin said it best when he spoke of Bertmen’s key for finding and cochin talent, saying, “Skip is the most valuable athletic department employee in LSU history.”
The film premiered on the evening ahead of the 2021 SEC Baseball Tournament, and before an event that featured Coach Skip Bertman and his fellow players, the coach hadn’t seen any footage outside of a fifteen-minute reel that premiered at his 83rd birthday party at the L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge the previous Sunday.
When interviewed about his decision to not see the film ahead of the public though he was offered the chance, Bertmed said, “I did that intentionally. I wanted to see it for the first time at the party. I hear Marc did a great job. Can’t wait to see it and all the boys.”
For more Louisiana-related articles, click here.