WATCH: Handsome Monica On Joining Ragin’ Cajuns Baseball
A lot of people wanted Handsome Monica to come catch for their team, but he chose to play for Tony Robichaux above all his other options.
Monica was picked in the 33rd round of the MLB Draft, but he decided to come play college ball for the Ragin' Cajuns. He's one of the best catchers in the country, and he wanted to pick somewhere that felt like home.
After spending some time in Arizona, he was ready to come back to his home state.
"I was just ready to come home. I've been all the way on the West Coast, I was out in Florida, and being from Mandeville, I was ready to come home, and the last place I wanted to go was that place an hour away," Monica said. "I thought I would come to UL, and Coach Robe, during the recruiting process, he was really great to talk to, and it had a lot to do with me wanting to come here and be a part of this program."
Monica wanted to come play for Louisiana, and Coach Robe was happy to have him.
Anybody from Louisiana will agree that its unique culture, cuisine and hospitality are hard to replicate anywhere else in the country. Monica is just glad he's back where the food is spicy, your neighbors are like family and the party is never far away.
"Being out in Arizona, the food is different, the lifestyle, everything is just different over there, and I was just ready to come home and be a part of something I'm used to," Monica said with a smile.
His relationship with Coach Robichaux was a massive part of his commitment to Louisiana. Everyone in Cajun country knows he's special, and Monica feels honored to already have his respect.
Coach Robe already announced that Monica will be the starting catcher on opening day, and the pitching staff said he did a fantastic job settling in and getting to know the system.
Trust is earned, not handed out. Monica put in the work, and Robe is putting him behind the plate on day one of the 2017 season.
"It feels good to have his trust, the feeling that he knows I can do well back there," Monica expressed. "It's a good feeling, and it makes me want to work really hard just for Coach Robe."
Catchers handle a lot of responsibilities. Not only do they have to corral curveballs, block balls in the dirt and swing a good bat at the plate, they have to learn how to handle all the different arms and minds on the pitching staff.
Monica is entrusted to handle one of the deepest, nastiest pitching staffs in the country. After putting the time in, he feels like he knows how to approach his job behind the plate.
"We have all types of pitchers, different velocities, different personalities," Monica said. He added, "I've gotten to know each and every one of them, and you have to adjust to each pitcher on the staff, and I feel like I'm at the point right now where I know how to approach each pitcher, and they look really good."
Every pitcher is different. If he needs to light a fire under his man on the mound, he's ready. If another pitcher needs him to lighten the mood by cracking a joke, he knows when to push that button. It's a delicate art, but he's had a little help adjusting too.
Coach Robichaux paired him with Gunner Leger, so Monica could get acquainted with the program on and off the field. As roommates, Monica and Leger formed a solid working relationship already.
If you're going to learn from anybody on the staff, Leger is a solid choice to help get with the program.
"He's helped me a lot along the way when I have questions about the system and how thinks work around here at UL," Monica explained. "It's been great, he's great to room with. We play around with each other a lot, give each other a hard time."
Monica is replacing Nick Thurman behind the plate, who was one of the quiet pillars on the team the last few years.
Thurman was a cool character at catcher, but Monica is a bit of a different breed.
"I'm a fiery guy. I play with a lot of emotion. You're going to know I'm out on the field," Monica said. "I talk a lot, I'm always moving around behind the plate. I make it known that I'm back there."
He's definitely not a shy guy, and he's setting the bar high for himself this season.
A lot of players avoid setting personal goals, but Monica wasn't scared to share his ambitions.
"I would love to hit twenty home runs, but we will see how that goes," Monica joked.
Monica swings a sweet bat, and if he gets close to hitting his mark, Coach Robe will probably be smiling from ear to ear.
When it came down to deciding where he wanted to play baseball this season, the Ragin' Cajuns fan base was the last piece of the puzzle too.
Everybody on the team helped describe the atmosphere at "The Tigue" to Monica when he got here, and Russo Park ensures to deliver a beautiful experience. It will be a new look to the stadium, but it will still hold some of the craziest baseball fans on the planet.
"I hear they're ruthless. I hear it's difficult for the away team to come in here and play their game. I hear the fans are tough on them, and I can't wait to see it. I can't wait to see how the fans have our backs and support us," Monica said.
Monica might be a newcomer to the team, but it might not take him long to become one of Cajun Nation's favorite players. It feels like a match made in heaven already, and he hasn't even played a game in vermilion and white yet.