My Weekend at Lamson – From the Bird’s Nest
Two of the questions I get asked most often about my broadcast coverage of Cajuns sports are:
1. How long have you been doing the Cajuns on the radio?
2. How much longer are you going to do it?
Well, the answer to the first question is, I’m wrapping up my twentieth season of radio broadcasts.
And, the answer to the second question has always been, as long as they want me and as long as my health is good, I’ll probably go for awhile.
But after the weekend I had at Lamson Park this past weekend, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be “just a fan.”
I don’t get to see a lot of Cajuns’ softball. Not because I don’t want to…in fact, I’d see them a lot if I could. But my work with baseball means conflicts more often than not. I only saw them play a couple of times this year, and only once as a fan and that was when Georgia Tech came to town.
But my love affair with college softball goes back more than twenty years, and that’s Stefni Lotief’s fault. She was Stefni Whitton then, and she was the Cajuns’ first of many to earn All-American honors. And, watching her pitch got me hooked on the game.
Truth be told, it was a much different game back then. The ball was white, and it didn’t travel very far. The third basemen and first basemen played, oh, about twenty feet from home plate. And, pitchers didn’t have to be fine with their pitches. They could challenge the best of hitters. Stef could pitch a game in about an hour and five minutes. She rarely walked anyone and one run was usually enough.
It was three years after she finished playing that the “glow” ball was introduced. And, it was in that first year of the new ball that someone finally hit a ball over the fence at what was then Lady Cajun Park. (Kyla Hall was the first Cajun player to do it.)
But I was still hooked on the game and got to be in Oklahoma City when the Cajuns made their first trip to the Women’s College World Series. It’s still an experience I’ll never forget.
So, although I haven’t seen them often in recent years, I still have tremendous respect and love for the program. And, I really looked forward to the NCAA Regionals. I wouldn’t get to see them on Friday, but Saturday afternoon I was free and Sunday was a day off for me (my first in, oh, about three and a half months.)
But I gotta tell you….watching a game as a fan will age me pretty quick.
Saturday I watched the game from the Stadium Club, which is where the media overflow was housed. The food was plentiful, the soft drinks were cold and the play was great. Athletic Director Scott Farmer, his mother and his wife Jackie were all there and we got a chance to visit during the game. President Savoie, wife Gail and son Adam were there as well. Scott and I talked some about the selection process and we all yelled loudly in the second inning when Nerissa Myers hit one over the right center field wall with the bases loaded. And, we did plenty of high-fiving when Matte Haack hit one that clipped the trees in left center, again with the bases juiced. And, that area was loud enough to where, although the broadcast was available in the room, none of us heard Steve Peloquin say “I don’t think there’s anybody back there.”
But, although the game was never in doubt, I did plenty of pacing. And, I realized it’s much easier for me, emotionally, to watch a game while broadcasting.
I was a nervous wreck…in a game where the Cajuns were one out away from a mercy rule win.
Sunday was worse.
Scott was gone, headed to Destin for the Sun Belt Conference spring meetings. And, he was going to be in meetings in the afternoon, but he asked me to text him updates. (My texts to him will be in parentheses.) I watched an inning or so from the Stadium Club, but I couldn’t stay there. (Fundamentally conscious, politically correct team did not score in the first). ( Orgeron RBI single, Cherry SAC fly, 2-0 after one.) I went to the far right of the upper concourse and watched an inning or two there, but the Stanford fans were sitting there and I didn’t want to do much yelling in front of them. (00 strikes out two in the second). So, I went back into the Stadium Club. (THAT’S A BOMB FOR CHRISTI O! 3-0 B3.) Then it was off to the third base side. There I could cheer for the Cajuns, but Natalie Fernandez’ dad was there and he paced more than I did. That just made me more nervous. (Out in order in the fourth. Two more for 00. She’s got six.)
I went downstairs. There was no place to sit, but I positioned myself where I could see a little and watched about an inning there. Then I walked onto the lower concourse and said hello to someone I knew. But, I had a feeling something was about to happen. I walked up the stairs and looked out just in time (DRAHEIM TWO RUN JACK! 5-0!! New limb in to pitch for the Trees.)
I couldn’t stay there because I was going to be in someone’s way so it was back to the Stadium Club. (Five outs left.) (5-1) (Four outs left), (5-2) (Wallace in to pitch). The Stadium Club was bad luck. Had to move. Back to the upper concourse, first base side. (Three outs left) (We’ve got em loaded in the sixth). (Christi O. Sac.Fly. 6-2).
That was more like it. I obviously needed to stay right there, even though the Stanford fans were right below me. (One out. Myers to Haack. Great stretch on a close play). (Two out. All-American up.) (Thank you and good night.)
I was out of breath. My feet hurt from pacing. But, it was done.
After the game, I went downstairs and waited for the coaches to come to the media area. I shook hands with and hugged Mike. I hugged Christi. I hugged Stef. I hugged 00 and told her she had done what seniors do when it matters.
After the media conference, I went back outside and visited with Stefni. We talked about the regional, the atmosphere and how great a group the 2012 Ragin’ Cajuns were. I also told her I was a wreck the entire game.
So….when I’m asked that second question, the answer is, as long as they want me and I can breathe, retirement is not an option.
Because I’ll have a heart attack if I have to be a just a fan.