Down here, it's a little different culture than where I'm from. But I've loved it. The people have been great, and the food is unbelievable. People go out of their way to make sure you're welcome and feel comfortable here. Day 1, since I got here, I had a lot of people that looked out for me and bent over backward for me. —Kendall Mayer, UL-L relief pitcher and Utah native
LAFAYETTE, La. — Utah native and Cottonwood High product Kendall Mayer started his college career at Washington State, appearing in one game as a freshman for the Cougars.
He transferred from there to Seminole Community College in Oklahoma, where he met his now-wife Ashtyn.
And he has spent the last two seasons as a relief pitcher at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where the customs are Cajun, the influence is predominantly French, the good times roll and the food fare gives new meaning to sumptuous.
Shrimp here is savored, unlike the brine of the Great Salt Lake, and gumbo is a great way to go.
Crawfish are boiled by the pot-full.
Rice- and pork liver-stuffed boudin is the sausage of choice for many, Tabasco sauce is bottled on Avery Island just down the road, and a shake of Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning can be a daily occurrence.
It's a world far from Mayer's home in Sandy, yet one that tends to embrace most visitors and newcomers like its own.
"Down here, it's a little different culture than where I'm from. But I've loved it," said Mayer, who was at Cottonwood when it won state titles during his freshman, sophomore and junior years from 2006-08. "The people have been great, and the food is unbelievable.
"People go out of their way to make sure you're welcome and feel comfortable here. Day 1, since I got here, I had a lot of people that looked out for me and bent over backward for me."
When Mayer leaves, it will be with reward.
The senior plans to pursue a master's degree in intercollegiate athletics administration and has already secured a graduate-assistant position in sports event management starting later this year at the University of Oklahoma.
And on Tuesday night, Mayer was named the winner of the Sun Belt Conference's male athlete postgraduate scholarship.
"That's just another blessing," said Mayer, who married Ashtyn last August, went into this season with a 3.5-plus grade-point average and will graduate from Louisiana this summer with a bachelor's degree in sports management.
Dedicating himself to what it took to win the award, Mayer said, was "a decision that I made."
"I worked hard at it," he said, "and there were a lot of sleepless nights trying to go after my dream as far as school."
On the field, Mayer is a short-relief specialist whose 1.69 ERA over 16.0 innings and 13 appearances this season is the lowest among all pitchers for the Ragin' Cajuns.
Louisiana (40-17) began the eight-team Sun Belt tournament that started here Wednesday as the No. 3 seed behind No. 1 Troy and No. 2 South Alabama, and after victories on Wednesday and Friday, the Cajuns are quite confident they'll be in an NCAA Regional when invites go out Monday.
Mayer also has a 2-0 record, and he got the win after retiring the two batters he faced in the ninth inning of last Thursday's 10-inning, 5-4 victory at Louisiana-Monroe.
But Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux is proud of him for reasons far beyond that.
"Sometimes we don't see all the good that these guys do," Robichaux said, "and I think it's good to see that he gets something that's correlated to him.
"He cares about his school, he cares about everything he does. It's a true sign of baseball paying him back."