Game Rewarding Cajuns For Working While They Wait
The Ragin' Cajuns aren't whistling while they work, but they're working while they wait. Whistling is easy, and waiting is the worst.
A few injuries and offensive slumps hobbled the Cajuns early in the season. Kyle Clement's broken wrist tweaked their chemistry and affected their run production for a few weeks, but Tony Robichaux was wise not to rush him back. Patience is a virtue, and it often leads to good results.
After rehabbing from surgery, doing one-handed batting practice and watching the games from the dugout, Clem is back in the lineup and looking healthy as ever. Just ask Arkansas State (4 RBI and a HR on Sunday).
According to his coach, the key to Clem's strong return was his preparation. He didn't waste time pouting about his injury. His hard work is helping his team win games, and it helped him come back even sooner than his initial timetable indicated.
"Hopefully that can spark us," Coach Robichaux said about Clem's return. "I know the rest of the hitters in the lineup are glad to see him back because it will spread out some stress."
While he was out, guys like Derrek Herrington stepped up and developed. Now that Clement is back in the lineup, the stress is gone and the depth is greater.
Coach Robe often says, "You can't get to tomorrow without walking through today, and whatever happens today is going to help me tomorrow." It sounds like a passage from a best-selling motivational novel, but his philosophy works wonders in baseball (and in life).
Whether fans realize it or not, Clement's injury forced the Cajuns to mature. It put them in the pressure cooker.
"Yeah, he had a setback, but what are we going to do, stop playing because we had one guy with a broken wrist? We have to move forward," Robichaux said. "Now we're fortunate enough to pick him back up, and he had a great weekend, and I'm glad. He worked while he waited, and believe me, the game knows who to pay back."
It's payback time for Clement. Players hate spending time on the training table, and now he's off and terrorizing pitchers again. He's not the only one who conquered his challenge either. Some of his teammates might not have been injured, but their problems were just as real.
Stefan Trosclair was hitting under .200 to start the season, now he has eight hits over his last six games. Wyatt Marks got rouged up in a couple consecutive starts, but his last outing against Arkansas State was masterful (7.0 IP, 1 ER, 8 K). Robe's mantra of "working while you wait" is a hard practice to follow, but his players are reaping the benefits.
Rushing things never gets you anywhere. You can apply that to almost any scenario. Whenever you try to force the issue and defeat time (who is undefeated), you end up creating more harm in the end. Staring at the door won't make it open for you any sooner, so you might as well be productive until you see the knob start turning.
"That's the key to working while you wait. Most people don't do that," Robe shared. "They say, 'I'll wait until the door opens back up again for me and then I''ll work the night before.' You can't do that, you have to keep working."
Kennon Fontenot was another player that worked while he waited. Heading into the Nichols State game, his batting average sat at a dismal .091. Instead of giving up on Fontenot and sending him to the far end of the dugout, Coach Robe and Associate Head Coach Anthony Babineaux decided to throw him into the deep-end and force him to start swimming.
He collected a pinch hit against the Colonels in the midweek, and he had three big RBI and a home run over the weekend against Arkansas State. Baseball can be very frustrating at times, but it appears Fontenot defeated his oppressor. All he had to do was wait.
"Now maybe he's off and running," Robichaux said about Fontenot breaking through his wall at the plate. "That's what's important about working while you wait, the part about humility and the part about timing, you know, when you're going to get your chance. But you've got to work and be ready for when you do get your chance."
Every season is a series of rises and falls. If you can fight off the downward dips as much as possible, you usually end up on the right side of things at the end of the season. The Cajuns are conquering their demons week by week, and all that matters is how they're playing heading into postseason play.
The perfect example of "working while you wait" comes from senior pitcher Eric Carter. It took him time to adjust to coming out of the bullpen, and he only appeared in six games last season. After waiting his turn, he is now a dependable bullpen weapon. Robe already used him in nine games this season, and his last performance was a gem (3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 5 K).
Carter came a long way from when he joined the Cajun program. Robe's enjoying watching the game reward him for his patience and work ethic.
"You ever seen somebody run on hot cement?That's what scared pitchers do. They tip toe all around the plate," Robe said, referring to the change in Carter's game. "[Sunday] he goes out, and I'm talking about some good old country hardball. There was no tip-toeing at all...I don't think anything clicked with him as much as internally he grew and got better."
That's the most frustrating part of slumps in baseball. Often, nothing changes about the preparation or routine, something just slips seamlessly into place and things all of a sudden get better. Waiting for that moment can drive a man mad. This team kept their sanity.
There's still a lot of working, and waiting, to be done. Freshman Shortstop Hunter Kasuls (broken hand) has to wait to return, but Brad Antchak is getting his work in while he's gone. If Kasuls comes back at full strength in time to help the Cajuns push toward the postseason, everybody wins.
The key to waiting is seeing the end result. You can't jump forward in time, so just keep your eyes on the finish line and put one foot in front of the other, or as Robe says, "work while you wait."