WATCH: Robichaux Previews Ragin’ Cajuns 2017 Season
Ragin' Cajuns Baseball season is about to begin in a week. Louisiana has high expectations for the 2017 season, but Tony Robichaux isn't going to let anything go to his team's head.
The Ragin' Cajuns were the unanimous pick to win the Sun Belt's Western division, but Coach Robichaux doesn't put much into preseason predictions.
"You now how I feel about rankings. That's last year's team...we have to earn what we earn," Robichaux expressed.
A lot has changed since the end of last season. The construction to Russo Park threw Robichaux a curveball, but that wasn't the only thing putting pressure on Coach.
In the course of the offseason, Robichaux helped with the construction of the Cajuns new stadium, saw his son get married and handled a lot of other family business. It was a hectic series of months, to say the least.
"Since the last out was made at the end of last season, I'm probably coming up on one hundred meetings," Robichaux said. He added, "If they're not ready, it will fall on me. If we are ready, the credit will go to them."
Robichaux always leads by example, and he doesn't want his team to make any excuses heading into the 2017 season.
Realistically though, the construction of Russo Park presented some complications. Cranes, bulldozers, jackhammers and dozens of workers added a layer of noise confusion and chaos to their normal, tranquil practice situation
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When your practice field is undergoing serious construction, you turn it into a training scenario.
"What I really like about it is the distractions have been good," Robichaux said about the construction process. "We had to learn how to tune it out."
If the construction crew told them they had to leave the field, Robichaux turned it onto a rain delay. In that case, the Ragin' Cajuns will be prepared to weather any storm.
One thing that stayed consistent is the depth of the pitching staff. Louisiana is loaded with MLB level talent, and he's trying to protect their arms while developing the rest of the staff.
Gunner Leger, Wyatt Marks, Dylan Moore and a few others will be draft eligible after the end of this season. Robichaux wants to bring along youngsters like Jack Burk and Jacob Norman to develop their talent for the future, and he still has quality arms like Nick Lee, Hogan Harris, Colten Schmidt, Chris Charpentier and Colton Lee to work with too.
Early in the season, Robichaux's main mission is to build up his pitching staff's strength without dealing with injury issues. He's one of the best pitching coaches in the nation, and he wants to handle his arms carefully.
When asked about his main concern heading into the season, Robichaux answered immediately.
"I think it's the pitchers' tolerance. Building the starters...what you do with pitchers, you bang on the soft tissue," Robichaux said. His plan is to trust his veterans. "We think they're old enough to go, 'Gunner, where are you? How much can you do today?'"
Robichaux will have some help handling his pitchers too. Last year, Nick Thurman was basically another coach on the field at catcher. This season, Handsome Monica is the man.
It's Monica's first year as a member of Louisiana, but he's already earning Robichaux's trust. His bat will provide a lot of pop to the lineup, and his poise behind the plate is evident already.
Replacing Thurman is a steep task. He was the calmest player on the roster, but Robichaux isn't too concerned with Monica finding his place on the team.
"He's done a great job. He's an older guy, so it was easier for him to pick stuff up," Robichaux said. He also went a step further, stating, "He's earned the right to be our starting catcher...he will be out there opening day."
Monica is only one of the exciting newcomers too. Freshman Todd Lott is built like Paul Bunyan, and Tyler Stover could be the biggest surprise of the season when he finds his way into the lineup. The expectations are high, but so is the excitement.
Curious how the Cajuns are preparing for the season? Watch the video above to hear Robichaux's thoughts on leadership, the depth on the pitching staff, his thoughts on the lineup and a lot more. Next week, Louisiana hits the diamond. It's almost like Christmas day is coming.