The Word: My First Ragin’ Cajuns Baseball Experience
Coach Tony Robichaux did not have a good Memorial Day Holiday as his Ragin' Cajuns Baseball squad came up short, at home, against the Sun Belt competition in the Conference Tournament.
This was my first experience having the opportunity to cover a college baseball team as closely as I did here at UL.
It started in the fall when I had the chance to meet, sit down, and chat with the legendary coach Tony Robichaux. A man with many of his own unique sayings called Robe-ism's, he always has an original thought on any unique situation, and seems to stay very even keeled.
As the season changed from winter, and I use that term loosely due to the type of winter that I'm used to coming from the North-East, to spring we had the preseason media day. Here I got the chance to sit down one-on-one with a handful of players and talk to them about their off-season preparation, the upcoming season, their goals, and some fun personal tid-bits.
Lets not forget about the opportunity to work in and be around such a first-rate facility that reminds you more of a professional Minor League stadium than it does a college one at M.L. Tigue Moore Field at Russo Park. How about the fans that pack the stadium every single home game as well!? I've seen nice college stadiums that are filled with a couple hundred fans, here you get a couple thousand routinely!
Now, I don't have the experience at the park before the upgrades but I can honestly say that this place is one of the nicest ball parks I've ever gotten a chance to be at. Being the baseball guy that I am, I would get goosebumps whenever I was in the Stadium Club to cover a weekly press conference and would take a look out onto the beautifully sun drenched turf field. You would routinely see players tossing in the outfield, hitters taking batting practice under the turtle screen that hovers over home plate, or players taking extra ground balls off the hot turf. All this made me wish I were still out on the field putting in work towards preparing for games and practice.
Once the season got started it was like wading through some rough waters as the team lost their starting catcher Handsome Monica and struggled to find a consistent DH. There were players who would surprise though. For example, Daniel Lahare who was on the outskirts of the coaching staff's radar coming into this season with a tough fall.
The competition was stiff but Coach Robe would not use that as a crutch as he knew this team could play better. The inconsistent play continued into their Conference schedule as they began the year 3-6 in the Sun Belt with three straight series losses and questions beginning to mount regarding this Cajuns offense. There were some high points, most notably beating the LSU Tigers not once, but TWICE this season and getting to go to the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic was a special privilege.
However, after one of the most brutal losses of the season to a ranked Southern Mississippi squad, the team responded the very next night with a win over those same Golden Eagles. From there, the season seemed to turn around as they tore through the rest of their schedule to finish the year 21-7 and first in the Western Division of the Sun Belt.
Unfortunately, the season ended when the team failed to do any more damage other than winning their opening game in shootout fashion against Little Rock.
I did get to experience some really cool aspects of covering this team throughout the year. I got a chance to sit in with fellow host on ESPN1420am, Billy Ryckman and Associate Head Coach Anthony Babineaux for the Cajun Corner every Wednesday talking baseball with a locker room feel to it.
In addition, I created an extended post-game show for the broadcasts and called it, "Cajuns Baseball Post-Game Extra" for weekday games in which I produced on ESPN1420. I even got an opportunity to jump on the broadcast with our very own Jay Walker to call the game between the Cajuns and Tulane late in the season. Finally, one of my favorite aspects of the season was being able to host, "The Grind", a weekly video recap of what happened last week and what was upcoming for UL Baseball.
All in all I know this is not how we were all hoping the season would end but I had a blast covering this team. Getting the chance to talk about them on my show, asking questions to Coach Robe and Coach Bab, and being around a community that cares so much about their Cajun Baseball program-I loved it. I can not wait until next year.