home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Baseball: Ragin’ Cajuns – Best beards in baseball?

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 21, 2014


UL’s Jace Conrad rounds first base after hitting a double during the Cajuns’ 6-5 win over UL Monroe in 14 innings Saturday at Tigue Moore Field. Leslie Westbrook/The Advertiser UL’s Jace Conrad rounds first base after hitting a double against UL-Monroe during an NCAA baseball game Saturday, May 17, 2014, at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field in Lafayette, La.(Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

They wear their whiskers as badges of honor, almost as meaningful for some as the logo on their caps.

The beards belonging to UL baseball players as they head into the 2014 postseason come in all shapes, sizes and shades — and serve to bind team members who, with a lot on the line, have worked hard to keep the hair on their chinny chin chins.

No one has reached Duck Dynasty-like proportions just yet.

More : UL baseball up to No. 7 RPI

But when it comes to the award for most unruly, second baseman Jace Conrad is the leader in the clubhouse.

"He’s hinging on the caveman beard," said coach Tony Robichaux, whose 49-7 Ragin’ Cajuns — ranked No. 2 in the nation — open play in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament against UL Monroe at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in Mobile.

"His is crazy," added starting pitcher Austin Robichaux, who, before the season started, was tapped by teammates to lobby his coach — and father — to OK the fuzzy faces.

He was picked because, Austin Robichaux said, "I had a little insight to softening him up a little bit."

Despite about 21 years of experience softening up his dad, the kid who can throw 90-plus miles per hour was skeptical that Pops would relent.

"I didn’t think it was gonna happen," Austin Robichaux said, "because (no facial hair) has been a rule since he’s been here."

The son came ready to make his case, however, thanks to some help from teammate Ryan Leonards.

UL’s third baseman actually did research — Google is a beautiful thing —on benefits of the beard, which lately has soared to near-epidemic popularity.

More: Cajuns get some love from Sports Illustrated

Did you know …

Beards have hidden health benefits, such as protection from the sun, avoidance of razor rash and reduced aging of the skin.

There’s also the macho, tougher-than-you-are-look factor — important to an intimidating team with 61 home runs in 56 games this season.

Then there’s the real kicker — those bushy beards worn by the 2013 World Series-champion Boston Red Sox.

NHL players have sported beards throughout the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs long before Jonny Gomes and the gang in Beantown got so much notice in 2013 — the New York Islanders actually started it in the 1980s — but the baseball connection must have helped loosen the Louisiana coach who usually oversees a tidy deck.

"I’m pretty sure the whole world watched the Red Sox win," UL pitcher Matt Plitt said, "and they all like beards, so we just kind of stole their idea and ran with it."

Robichaux, UL’s head coach since 1995, bit.

But his bite came with a caveat.

"He said as long as we win we can have them," Austin Robichaux said.

The Cajuns have won, and won, and won a lot more, since then, including six straight and 11 of their last 12 games.

Their 49 victories to date, in fact, tie the school record for most in a single season even before they open the conference tournament.

The coach’s concession went over well with a group of self-described grinders, whose beards make them look a lot meaner than they really are.

"We love ’em," said catcher Michael Strentz, who is giving Conrad a good chase in the caveman category. "They’re awesome."

"We’re having a lot of fun with the beards," Plitt added. "We’re not really having a competition (to see) who can grow the longest, but, just like our saying (on the field) is ‘We’re gonna grind it out’ — well, we’re gonna grind these beards out."

A contest would be difficult because some — unlike Conrad, who hasn’t shaved since last December — have trimmed and groomed along the way.

Then there are those with follicly challenged faces.

"I think my 6-year-old cousin grows a better beard than Tyler Girouard," Conrad said of the Cajuns’ designated hitter.

Relief pitcher Riley Cooper also catches some grief.

"We bash him all the time," Austin Robichaux said. "It took him about three years just to grow what’s on his chin right now."

For those with no trouble growing their beards, there came a point when it was time for some housecleaning. Several players weren’t inclined, though, so another agreement of sorts had to be reached with Tony Robichaux.

This time Conrad did the smooth talking.

"I told Jace, ‘It’s getting a little bit long,’ " the Cajun coach said. "He said, ‘I’ll make you a deal’ — because, you see, Jace is an attorney with a general studies degree.

"I said, ‘What’s the deal?’ He said, ‘If we don’t lose back-to-back games, we don’t have to thin it out.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll take that bet.’ "

Sure enough, the Cajuns still have not lost consecutive games.

One byproduct is that UL goes into the postseason as one of the country’s hottest teams, hopeful of its first trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., since 2000.

Another is that Conrad has been playing hide-and-seek lately with Tony Robichaux.

"I’ve been trying to avoid him for weeks," Conrad said, "because I know mine is too messy."

Leonards senses his beard is headed that way too.

"Jace has a little head start," he said, "but I’m gonna go get him."

And if the Cajuns can make a run to Omaha that lasts long into June, Leonards is willing to suffer the wrath of someone whose thoughts on the matter mean even more than that of his coach.

Her name is Debra.

"My Mom gave me a hard time the other day, said it was time to trim it up," Leonards said. "I said, ‘Nope, it ain’t happening.’ I said, ‘From here on out, it’s not getting trimmed.’ "

About those health benefits …