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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Jefferies Tatford Baseball 2004-07

Tatford finally zeroed in on baseball

 

 

By Bruce Brown

 

Written for Athletic Network

 

 

Jefferies Tatford freely admits to having a competitive nature.

 

As one of four brothers in an athletic family, such a trait was almost inevitable – as a survival instinct, if nothing else.

 

I was never inside before dark,” Tatford said of his childhood. “I enjoyed playing and doing things.

 

I had a tough time growing up if I wasn’t good at something. I had an older brother (Regan) who got to experience things, and that instilled a drive in me to excel – even at age 2.

 

That’s kind of particular to me among the brothers.”

 

Tatford recalled his insistence on being included in T-ball at the age of 4 because he didn’t want to miss out on all the fun, talking his way into a uniform and then showing quickly he had an aptitude for the game.

 

Baseball was eventually the sport he chose to focus on, but his youth also included football, basketball and swimming.

 

I didn’t play football until middle school,” said Tatford, who played quarterback well enough at St. Thomas More to be offered college scholarships in both football and baseball.

 

I was a pretty good basketball player. And, we were all competitive swimmers in the summer.”

 

It was natural for Regan, Jefferies, Byrnes and Evan to gravitate toward sports as the sons of Leander Tatford, a lineman for UL’s Ragin’ Cajuns from 1974-76 who often coached his sons.

 

If we weren’t at our own event, we were watching our brothers play,” Jefferies Tatford said. “And, as a family, we always went to Cajun football games. Obviously, I attribute that to my dad.”

 

Jefferies learned quickly and adapted to each season.

 

I like to think I have pretty good hand-eye coordination,” he said. “And I like to think I’m a hard worker.

 

Coming out of high school, I had the opportunity to play both football and baseball. But, at the end of the day, I felt baseball was the better path and offered me a better opportunity to a pro career. That swayed my decision at the time.

 

I loved football, loved playing it. But the lifespan is shorter in that sport.”

 

The versatile Tatford knew he would be facing top-tier college competition at UL, and would be well coached by Tony Robichaux and his staff, so he made the obvious choice to continue the family legacy and play for the Cajuns.

 

Tatford began to blossom in his sophomore year, starting 38 of 52 appearances in 2005, batting .336 and collecting 3 home runs and 32 runs batted in.

 

As a junior, he hit .336 again with 4 homers and 38 RBI while starting all 59 games UL played in 2006.

 

Then as a senior in 2007, Tatford hit .351 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI, starting every one of 62 games.

 

The Cajuns finished 34-23 in 2004, 48-19 with a Sun Belt regular season title and NCAA appearance in 2005, 39-20 in 2006 and 45-17 in 2007 for a combined 166-79 mark during Tatford’s time in the program.

 

A 46th-round draft pick by the Chicago Cubs out of high school in 2003, Tatford moved up to the 15th round in 2007 by the New York Mets. He spent two years in the minor leagues playing in Brooklyn and Savannah, finishing with a .226 batting average.

 

He retains distinct memories of both his college and pro experiences.

 

We were OK when I was a freshman, but my sophomore year we had a really good team,” Tatford recalled. “Our senior class had a lot of leaders who would take the time to teach the younger guys.

 

It’s easy not to care, but I had some great teammates who were older than me.”

 

While Tatford recalls some games, scores and moments, it is the relationships forged at UL that he treasures the most, including lessons learned under Robichaux.

 

The stories you hear are true, of how he wants all his players to sit in the first three rows in class, and how on road trips there’s always a bus to go to church,” Tatford said.

 

Now I’m 30 years old, and I work and go to church. Those things carry over into life. A lot of things go unseen, but you end up remembering a lot of them. Every person has their own sayings, that at the end of the day make them successful. The good ones, like Coach Robe, are unique.

 

I still see a lot of my buddies (teammates) at tailgating. I ask, ‘How’s your life now?’ You end up cherishing those relationships.”

 

Tatford, the starting left fielder for UL as a senior, was drafted twice as a catcher. On his off days, he would play first base or in the outfield. It was a different life than college ball.

 

In the minor leagues, I had the opportunity to get in an organization and experience it,” Tatford said. “A lot of people look at it as glorious, but it’s a business. Clubs have a lot of money invested in ones they drafted first, so they’re going to get the most opportunities.

 

But, I had a great time while I was there. I got to experience it. I played in Brooklyn. There was a lot of the world I got to see, that I would not have seen if not for baseball.

 

The minors is such a grind. It’s a job. You’re often there from noon until 10:30 at night, then get on the bus. You start to play, and you’re getting paid, but nobody cares for each other. They’re all fighting for a job. At UL, when you put on that Cajun uniform, you know 34 teammates have your back.”

 

Tatford and his wife Elyse have an 8-month old daughter. He is a pipeline contractor, a project engineer, in Broussard who still feeds his competitive fires by remaining fit as well as coaching and attending UL athletic events.

 

It’s only natural.

 

As a fan, you always want to see the Cajuns have more and perform better,” he said. “It’s refreshing to see that improvements in facilities are finally getting done. It makes tailgating that much more fun.

 

As an RCAF member, I’d like to see it grow every year as a pure revenue generator. You see what you can do with a little money.”

 

And now when the Tatford clan gathers for UL football games, there is the added bonus of watching Evan – a transfer tight end from Tulane – in uniform for the Cajuns.

 

That’s awesome,” Jefferies Tatford said. “That has rejuvenated me. It gives me a better excuse to be at tailgating for 8 a.m.”

* * * * * * * *
Click here for the 2007 baseball team, including #13 Jefferies Tatford.

Click here for the Texas A&M (Regional) posted 6/7/07 Jefferies Tatford Fielding Highlight Show.

Click here for Jefferies’ Athletic Network profile.

Click here for the Jefferies Tatford Family Connections (then scroll down). 

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Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.