When Baseball Isn’t Fun – From the Bird’s Nest
I haven’t written anything concerning the end of the 2014 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns’ baseball season.
And, that was on purpose.
I told myself I’d wait a week before giving any thoughts about the season and the way it ended. Like everyone else, I was certainly disappointed last Monday night. On Tuesday, I was pretty analytical when breaking down the three game series with Ole Miss. I talked about winning a school record 58 games and what an incredible ride it was. I spoke of the entire Ragin’ Cajuns’ athletic year.
It’s my job to do that as a sports talk host.
I talked about this baseball team and how special it was. Not because of 58 wins, but because of a roster and a coaching staff that had it all together on and off the field. And, I said I hurt for them.
And, all of that is true.
Friday I had head coach Tony Robichaux on my program. It was the first time I had seen him since just before game three. We chatted for a few minutes off the air. Then we talked.
I’ve developed friendships with UL coaches over the years. But my relationship with Tony goes back twenty years. We’ve shared a lot about baseball and a lot about life…and death. We both lost brothers way too early. We both are experience the joys of being a grandparent. And, we love the game of baseball.
We talked about the successes, both individual and team, that 2014 brought to Cajun Nation. We talked about the incredible crowd support and the show that was put on before a national television audience. From a public relations standpoint it might be the athletic program’s finest hour, because it showcased passion in the city and on the campus.
And Tony also talked about the hurt. I asked him if he was going to watch the College World Series. He said he didn’t know. Said he might follow Ole Miss, since he and Mike Bianco are friends. But it was easy to tell he wasn’t ready. The last minute of the interview was full of emotion.
I told Tony I would watch. I said because of the regionals and super regionals I had followed college baserball very closely in the last couple of weeks as I mentally prepared for the possibility of broadcasting games involving those teams.
Now, if you know me at all and my love of the game, you know my favorite games are low scoring. I was never a big fan of gorilla ball. I, like Robe, have always been into pitching and defense. To me, that’s what makes the game a thing of beauty. Give me a 3-1 game anytime over 13-9.
So I watched.
I was especially intrigued with Saturday’s first game between Texas and UC Irvine. Two legendary coaches, Augie Garrido of Texas and Mike Gillespie of UCI have won 2,800 plus games between them. Both have won national champioships. Their philosophies are similar.
Texas scored an early run, and for a while I thought it would be enough. But the Anteaters scored late and sent the Longhorns to the elimination bracket. In the nightcap, Vandy beat Louisville 5-3. Not exactly a slugfest.
The Sunday games were even more down my alley. TCU led Texas Tech 1-0 leading into the eighth. The Red Raiders got a pair to go out in front. But TCU got a pair in the bottom of the inning and won 3-2.
My kind of baseball.
In the nightcap it was another pitching and defense gem. Virginia led 1-0. Ole Miss, as they did to the Cajuns a couple of times during the super regional, scored a run without a hit. The Rebels’ Auston Bousfield made a spectacular play to keep the game tight. I got to coach along with Mike Bianco in the ninth inning. Despite being burned by the same decision earlier, I still would have walked the left handed hitter to load the bases. Bianco rolled the dice. It didn’t work. Doesn’t mean it was a bad decision.
So, 3-1, 5-3, 3-2 and 2-1. The beauty of baseball.
And I didn’t enjoy a single minute of it.
I watched it with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. The good play, the passion of the crowds, the things that normally draw me to the College World Series did nothing to help the way I was feeling. In fact, it only made it worse. The taste in my mouth just got more bitter.
The hurt was still there.
I tried to fool myself into thinking the hurt was only for the players who had put so much sweat equity into the program. And, for the coaches who had worked so hard to put this team together. And, for the passionate Cajun fans who have stood by Robe and his program from the first year, because they believe in the man and what he stands for.
And I was almost convinced that’s all it was.
But I watched baseball this weekend. And, for the first time I can remember, the College World Series wasn’t fun to watch. It was painful.
And, I’ve now realized the hurt is real…for me as well as anyone else.
This is gonna take a while.