Thoughts on the Weekend – From the Bird’s Nest
It goes without saying this past weekend was a whole lot bigger than baseball.
And, in retrospect, it was close to being perfect.
We knew former Ragin' Cajuns' baseball coach Tony Robichaux would be honored inside Russo Park on Friday, and outside the ball park on Saturday. We didn't know how perfect it would be.
It's not easy to set the right tone in a situation like that. You want to honor the man who did so much, not only for the baseball program, but for the lives of the young men he molded...but you don't want it to be over the top.
Friday's pre game ceremonies featured a 100 second video of Robe's comments. Most of it had to do with willingness to "throw down." Over 100 former players came onto the field and were greeted by head coach Matt Deggs and Associate Head Coach Anthony Babineaux. And, of course, the Robichaux family was there.
In the weeks following the coach's passing, the family stayed in the public eye as tributes were done around the area. But, for the last five months, they've had time to grieve, reflect and make plans for Opening Day.
Robe's #36 is on the new, padded outfield wall. Robe wanted that wall. It's black with a yellow stripe at the top to make it a little easier for umpires to make judgment calls. The brick down the left and right field lines are padded now, as well.
The moment of silence, naturally, lasted 36 seconds.
"Green Onions," the iconic '60's song by Booker T and the MG's, the tune played every time Robe went out to the mound, was played for the last time.
Tony's wife, Colleen and daughter Ashley Robichaux Moody, were escorted to home plate by Babineaux. Southeastern Louisiana coach Matt Riser gave Colleen a rose and a green and gold "36" cap. The Lions' players wore them Friday night. No one should be surprised by that.
Tony's sons, Justin and Austin, threw out the ceremonial first pitch(es).
The entire ceremony took a little over ten minutes. Another video, this one showing many highlights of Robe's Cajun career, was shown as well. That one got to quite a few fans. Bab took me to see the video that morning. That move kept me from losing my composure.
Friday night was only exceeded by Saturday morning.
We had all looked forward to the dedication of the statue honoring the Cajuns' coach. Former Cajuns' star Phil Devey, the master of the two seam fastball, spearheaded the drive to raise the money to have the statue commissioned. Amazingly, everything got done in about seven months.
On Saturday, Devey pitched better than he did when he was a Cajun.
His comments were spot on, as he challenged the current players to take care of their business on and off the field in a manner befitting Robichaux's legacy. He was poignant, he was funny, he was sincere. He was spot on He used his mother's attendance all the way from Quebec and former Cajuns Oswaldo Aguirre's dad flying in from Mexico as examples of Robe's reach.. And, he presented Colleen Robichaux with a check marking monies raised over and above the statue project.
Head coach Matt Deggs spoke of Robe's influence on his life. He broke down near the end. He will work tirelessly to bring the Cajuns back to national prominence. And, he'll do it with the same moral compass that Robe embodied.
Son Justin has been the spokesperson for the family since his father's passing. It's not the most comfortable thing in the world for him. But he has done it with dignity and grace. I remember years ago when speaking publicly wasn't something his father liked to do. But he always did it and became awfully good at it. I see those same qualities in Justin.
Every time I look at Anthony Babineaux, I marvel at what he's done since July 3rd. He was the closest to Robe of anyone outside of the immediate family. He has managed to speak publicly while grieving privately. I've seen tremendous courage during the last seven months. Like Robe, he has not cared about being in the spotlight. He is the ultimate "grinder." And, his unplanned decision to close the ceremony the same way Robe ended every practice and game in his 33 years as a head coach, put a perfect bow on a wonderful gift to those in attendance. I got as far as "Who art in Heaven."
Baseball became secondary over the weekend. It was not a good weekend on the field, although we saw some promising things. That will get better. The coaching staff, the team and the fans can now get down to the business of baseball.
I can't say the weekend brought closure to the unspeakable heartbreak in the Cajuns' baseball community.
But it was a wonderful step in the healing process.