Drew Bianco is no stranger to his family and baseball being intertwined. With his dad, Mike Bianco, who played under Skip Bertman at LSU from 1988-89 and served as the head coach at Ole Miss for 20 seasons, and his brother, Ben Bianco, a junior playing at Louisville, baseball has rooted itself into the base of the Bianco family tree.
The family connection makes this weekend’s trip back to Bianco's hometown of Oxford, MS, to play against his dad’s team a special one for him and his family.
“Definitely will be a little different of a week this week, but should be a fun one, and one I’m looking forward to,” Bianco said about his homecoming trip.
It’s been all business for the father and the son this week, Bianco said.
“I haven’t talked to him at all this week. I talked to my mom the other day, but I haven’t talked to him,” Bianco said Tuesday.
“We talk probably once a week, on the phone, and then he texts me every now and then, just motivational stuff and stuff like that.”
Tiger fans will be able to recall how this father-son match up played out last season.
On a Friday night in Alex Box Stadium, just after Daniel Cabrera had blasted a two-run home run into the right field bleachers, Bianco was called to pinch hit behind him. On the first pitch, a fastball over the inside half of the plate, Bianco sent the ball over the left field wall. He followed it up with an emphatic bat flip and jog around the bases, which took him on a drive-by right past his father, standing at the top of the Ole Miss dugout with a cross look on his face and his hands on his sides.
At first glance, many believed Mike had gotten angry at his son for the emotional at-bat, but Bianco said his dad had no ill will to him after, though even he was unsure initially after the game.
“At first, I thought he did, because usually he’ll text me at the end of a game if I do something good, and he didn’t text me,” Bianco laughed. “And it was like midnight, and he’s usually in bed like right after the game. So, all my friends were asking ‘What is he saying?’, and I was like, ‘He hasn’t said anything,’ so I thought he was mad at me,” Bianco said.
“But then at like 12:30, he texts me, says ‘Hey, proud of you, I’ll see you tomorrow, you deserve it, keep playing.’”
“I think the social media kind of blew (Mike’s reaction) out of proportion. I don’t think it was more towards me, I think it was more that they were getting beat pretty bad on Friday night again. They needed a win too.”
Bianco said he was guilty of getting caught up in the energy of the present, especially the bat flip that told everyone in the stadium and watching at home that he had no doubt he had hit that inside fastball out of the park.
“The bat flip was more just like living in the moment,” Bianco said. “It wasn’t anything to disrespectful to Ole Miss.”
Now that his brother Ben also had a home run in Louisville’s opening weekend series at Ole Miss earlier this season, the sons showing up their dad on the field has become a running joke in the Bianco family group message. Drew Bianco says the nervous images of his mom, Camie, as she wrestles with conflicting rooting interests at games featuring the father vs. son matchups have become something to laugh at for the family as well.
Bianco has found himself unlucky a lot at the plate so far this year, hitting .077 on 26 at-bats with a good amount of well-hit balls that were knocked down by the wind or hit straight to outfielders. However, he has also contributed seven walks on the year already and scored nine runs. Bianco attributes his more patient approach to hitting coach Eddie Smith.
“Eddie’s done a good job with me this year, just knowing that you don’t have to have three hits to have a good game.” Bianco said. “I think we’re valuing the walk a lot more.”
“I’m glad I’ve walked a lot, but I also would like some hits to fall eventually, and I think they will. Eddie and Coach Paul Mainieri have done a good job just helping me stay confident through it all.”
As of Tuesday,Mainieri says Bianco will get the start Friday night against Ole Miss’s left-handed ace Doug Nikhazy, as well as the start Wednesday night in LSU’s midweek game against South Alabama.
“I think we’ll give Drew a chance at the left hander on Friday night at Ole Miss, and because of that, we’ll probably play him (Wednesday) night as well, because he didn’t play on Sunday, and you don’t want to go stale, not play for a few days,” Mainieri said Tuesday.
LSU’s three games against Ole Miss will be at 6:30 p.m. , 1:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively. All three games will be available to watch via streaming on SECN+.
Friends and family will be arriving at Swayze Field for the weekend to see Bianco come home to play for the first time, and if this year’s series is anything like that Friday night in Baton Rouge last year, the Bianco family group message will have even more to tease about.