Five Memorable Moments From the “Tigue” – From the Bird’s Nest
I’d like to say I was there the day Moore Field opened. I wasn’t.
I know there were no bleachers...just the grandstand. There were no pine trees. Mr. Moore hadn’t planted them yet. There were no box seats down the third base line. Fans set up lawn chairs on the far side of the dugouts.
And, I know nobody showed up. The Cajuns averaged just a little over 100 fans in the first year.
The first game I saw was in the early 80’s. Mel Didier was coaching. And, I saw games under Brad Kelley and Gene Shell. I saw a lot more when Mike Boulanger was head coach. And, in the 1993 season, I began doing Cajuns’ games on the radio.
I started to think about the great times at the “Tigue.” And, the great games.
The battles with South Alabama. Conference baseball tournaments. The 2000 Regional, which ended with a line drive double play started by, who else, Nathan Nelson. The walk-offs. Pitching performances for the ages from Cody Robbins, Phil Devey, Scott Dohmann, Andy Gros, Kevin Ardoin, the brothers Robichaux, Zach Osborne and more.
The incredible 2014 season.
And Tommy Freaking Clark. With the biggest at-bat in Ragin’ Cajuns history.
But today, I’m not writing about games. I’m simply remembering some of the moments that have made “Tigue” Moore Field and those who have been a part of it extra special.
These aren’t being ranked. They’re in no particular order. But they are moments I’ll never forget.
IT’S A WEDDING, AND YOU’RE ALL INVITED--If you were a Cajun fan, you loved Papo Ramos. If you weren’t...well...not so much. But in 1991 and 1992, there was a surge in attendance due in no small part to the brash, intense competitor. Fans stood up when he came to the plate and chanted PA-PO! PA-PO! PA-PO!
Cajun fans loved Yariel Ramos.
And he loved them back.
I personally think he might be the best position player the Cajuns have ever had. He could run, hit and hit with power. He played with a tremendous intensity. If you were on the other team he didn’t like you.
But he loved the fans. And, we all got invited to his wedding.
Mainly, because it was at home plate at Moore Field.
Maria Cristina Giron was a volleyball player at UL. She and Papo fell in love and there was no question there would be a wedding. Tina called Papo the man of her dreams.
He had to have been. I mean, can you imagine? "Hey Tina….Will you marry me? And, oh, do you mind if we get married at home plate after a baseball game?"
She said yes. Now THAT’S true love.
After a game, Tina came out in her beautiful dress. The song “Forever and Ever, Amen” played on the loudspeaker and we were all part of the Moore Field nuptials.
Papo and Tina are still happily married. For what Moore Field has drawn together, let no man put asunder.
THE RETURN OF AN AMERICAN HERO--I’m not going to mince words here. John Coker is my favorite Cajuns baseball player. Ever.
See Coker run. He stole 29 bases in a single season with ten triples, a school record.
See Coker hit. .329 in 2005. 82 runs scored. A .494 slugging percentage from the leadoff spot.
See Coker catch. Like no one before. Or since.
The panels on the center field wall at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field had to be replaced from Coker running into the wall to catch drives. He literally knocked himself out in Bowling Green, KY making a catch and running into the padded wall with such force you could still see the imprint from his uniform. He held onto the ball. And, there was the catch in Miami against FIU, running full speed, diving parallel to the ground, and reaching behind him with the backhand catch.
Greatest play I’ve ever seen.
After the Cajuns’ 2005 season ended in New Orleans at an NCAA Regional, I went onto the bus after the game and shook his hand. “You’re the best I’ve ever seen,” I told him. He thanked me through his tears.
John Coker played with no fear.
And he served his country the same way.
Sgt. John Coker was badly wounded in Afghanistan in September, 2011. He was shot in both legs and his pelvis. One leg was shattered. He has undergone countless surgeries.
I don’t remember how I heard about it. I remember texting Associate Head Coach Anthony Babineaux. “Did you hear about John Coker,” I asked. His response: “Don’t tell me anything bad.”
Well, there was good news. He was alive.
In the 2012 season, Coker returned to the “Tigue” on Military Appreciation Weekend. He threw out the first pitch before a game. They played his walkup music. I cried.
Later, during the game, John Coker made the slow trek up the stadium steps. The going was slow. But he got to the top. And, he came in the broadcast booth and sat down next to me.
“I just wanted to thank you for the things you said about me,” he said.
He walked up the stairs. To thank me.
I replied, “I told you back in 2005 you were the best I’d ever seen. You still are.” He said “thank you” and we hugged.
I love John Coker. If you’ve been a Cajun fan for any length of time, you do too.
“TAKE OFF YOUR HAT”--Right under the press box at the “Tigue” you’ll find the “Dirty Dozen and a Half.” They were the original season ticket holders and, while several still remain today, many have passed on. Jim Maraist died in 2006. He was an avid UL sports fan, but loved the Spring sports. It was not unusual for Mr. Jim to show up at a conference tournament, even if it was a pretty good trek. Jim Maraist was a World War II Veteran, as well as Korea and Vietnam. He was in the Air Force and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He had an incredible booming voice. When the practice started of awarding foul balls to the fans you could hear him say “Keep that ball.”
He smiled just about all the time.
Unless he thought you were disrespecting the United States of America.
There were times when it was time for the National Anthem to be played and Mr. Jim would see a fan fail to remove his hat. He’d let them know about it.
“TAKE OFF YOUR HAT!!!”
I remember one time a man took issue with that booming voice and turned to say something. He even came up a few steps toward Mr. Jim, who moved into the aisle.
Jim Maraist was at least 80 years old. But he was ready to throw down. Security moved between them and the man was escorted, either out of the stadium or to another section.
I miss Jim Maraist.
HE TOOK OFF HIS HAT--Jonathan Lucroy is one of the most famous Ragin’ Cajuns ever. He ripped through the Sun Belt Conference for three straight seasons and set many school records. Had he stayed four years, he probably would own darned near all of them.
It was May 13, 2007. Senior Day. There were many honorees that day: Jefferies Tatford, Matt Casbon, Brett Solich, Matt Pilgreen, Andrew Laughter...and that’s just a few.
Jonathan Lucroy wasn’t one of the honorees. He was just a junior. But he knew. We all knew.
That game against LIttle Rock would be his last in a Cajuns’ uniform at the “Tigue.”
The Cajuns had clinched the Sun Belt regular season title the day before with a ridiculous 28-3 win. On senior day, they won 9-5.
I was down on the field after the game to interview Coach Robichaux. We talked about winning a championship at home in front of the fans. We talked about the upcoming series against New Orleans on the road.
While we were talking, I saw Jonathan Lucroy. Most of the people were on their way out of the stadium. He walked all the way to the backstop, stopped and bowed his head, tipping his cap. We didn’t have a chance to honor Jonathan Lucroy. But he took the time to honor us.
The next weekend I saw Jon’s dad, Steve in New Orleans. I said hello and he asked, “he tipped his cap?” I nodded.
Steve Lucroy, tight lipped, nodded. He had a tear in his eye.
A SHOULDER TO LEAN ON---I’d love to tell you I knew Marion Lartigue Moore well. In reality, I didn’t. But over the years, we had many conversations...mostly about the game of baseball.
Mr. Moore was known as “Mr. Baseball” in Lafayette. His work with the American Legion program is well documented. Mr. Moore loved the game. But he also loved the discipline that came with the game.
You didn’t DARE show up at his ball park with your shirt untucked. Mr. Moore hated untucked shirts.
He would sit in the press box every night, whether it was a Cajuns’ game or an American Legion game. He always sat right by the door. Later, when the “other” booth was built across the aisle, a bathroom was part of the plan, to accomodate Mr. Moore in his later years.
There was no person who loved the game who didn’t have the utmost respect for that man.
In his final season at the ball park, I had finished doing a broadcast. I had packed up everything and was ready to leave. About that time Mr. Moore came out of the box across the aisle and said, “Jay, do you mind if I use your shoulder going down the stairs?” I, of course, agreed and he steadied himself, leaning on my shoulder as we slowly walked down the steps. And, as we walked, I thought, “my God, what an honor this is.”
You know who has made me feel that way since then?