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Baseball: Grand-slam event

Youman has experienced benefits of fete


New Iberia native Shane Youman didn’t need to be convinced about the importance of the work done by the Housing Authority in Lafayette and Opelousas.

He experienced it.

When he was toiling in the minor leagues five years ago,

the former LSU left-hander and current Philadelphia Phillies pitcher called former New Iberia and UL standout Walter Guillory for an offseason job.

Guillory, the executive director of the Lafayette

Housing Authority, promptly put him to work helping people.

So when those who helped contribute to Thursday’s 10th Annual Pro Baseball Banquet to fund the Housing Authority in Lafayette and Opelousas at the Hilton saw the many films of how the agency aids the community, Youman knew exactly what they were revealing.

"It was cool seeing all of that and helping people,” Youman said. "My job was to help out people with disabilities and elderly people, doing things like bringing groceries to them, but they do so many different things to help people out.”

The primary mission of the Housing Authority in both communities is to give opportunities to those who might not otherwise receive them.

Youman, guest speaker Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers and many of the other professional athletes on hand Thursday spoke of their appreciation for the opportunities bestowed upon them.

After taking advantage of his big shot in the big leagues in Pittsburgh last season by winning three games in his eight starts, the Pirates gambled by putting Youman on waivers and lost when the Phillies quickly scooped him up shortly after Thanksgiving.

"They told me they took a calculated risk,” Youman said. "I didn’t really understand the reason, but I’m excited about the opportunity of playing for the defending NL East champions. They have a lot of talent. When you get to the big leagues, your eyes are on the prize. The Phillies have a team fit to do that. I hope I can help them get over the hump.”

Former St. Thomas More and UL standout Scott Dohmann still relishes his opportunities of earning a Major League paycheck and taking part in such a banquet in his hometown as one of the professionals.

"Being here with a bunch of guys who have spent so many years in the big leagues, like (Paul) Bako, is still amazing to me,” Dohmann said. "You pinch yourself every day for the opportunity of pitching in this league. I don’t take it for granted for one minute, but you also have to maintain that focus and have the confidence to pitch at this level.”

Dohmann’s latest chance comes in Tampa Bay, where the Rays called him up in July last season and Dohmann responded with a 3-0 showing and a 3.31 ERA. He looks to supply a steady arm in the bullpen for new closer Troy Percival.

"I don’t look at it as a role,” Dohmann said. "To me, it’s a matter of going out and pitching well every time they call on you.”

In between the awards to Housing Authority employees, the entertainment of Master of Ceremonies Buddy Lewis and the introduction of all the honored guests, Washington delivered a speech that centered around his influences and overcoming adversity.

From New Orleans, Washington and his wife, who have been together since the 10th grade, lost everything they had in Hurricane Katrina.

"I didn’t lose my drive, I didn’t lose my passion and I didn’t lose my love for the game,” Washington said.

Washington was given the opportunity to manage the Texas Rangers after a virtual lifetime in professional baseball by 30-year-old general manager Jon Daniels.

"I can’t thank Jon enough for believing in me and giving me this opportunity,” Washington said. "I’m the manager of the Texas Rangers and I’m proud of that title. We’re going to move forward and be something to be reckoned with.”

Daniels said the Rangers are now modeling themselves after other smaller-market franchises who are trusting their farm systems and not depending so heavily on big free-agent signings.

"Look at the Rockies, they tried to sign big-money guys like (Denny) Neagle and (Mike) Hampton and it set them back,” Daniels said. "They had four starters go down last year, so they had to depend on their younger kids and look where it got them. If those older arms had stayed healthy, they might not have known what they had.”

Keeping a watchful eye on Daniels, the Rangers in general and Guillory’s work with the Housing Authority is his old Ragin’ Cajun baseball coach Mel Didier.

"It (banquet) is getting better and better,” said Didier, who is now the special assistant to the general manager for the Rangers. "What Walter and the Housing Authority is able to do for those kids is tremendous. And all these players come here to help out for nothing. All they ask for is their expenses to be paid. All of this is done so kids can benefit.”

And get an opportunity to perhaps attend such a banquet in the future as a professional themselves.

 Zoom Photo

Photos by Leslie Westbrook/lwestbrook@theadvertise

At left, one of the big names at Thursday night’s Pro Baseball Banquet at the Hilton was Mel Didier. Shown with Gene Bacque, Didier is the former UL baseball coach and athletic director, who now works with the Texas Rangers.

   Zoom Photo

From left, former STM and UL pitcher Scott Dohmann (Tampa Bay Rays) and former New Iberia and LSU star Shane Youman (Philadelphia Phillies) are two current local Major Leaguers that were featured at the banquet.