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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Anthony "Bab" Babineaux - Baseball 1991-94 & Coaches 1995-2020
Babineaux fills many roles with Cajun baseball program
By Bruce Brown
What a long trip it's been.
Anthony Babineaux is in his 28th year with the UL Ragin' Cajun baseball program, first as a player and then filling various roles in the school's coaching staff.
He's as much a part of the scene as the infield turf at Tigue Moore Field in Russo Park.
There have been amazing highs, tragedy, and lately the pandemic-induced, strangest end to a season anyone can imagine (see related story).
And Babineaux weathers it all with gratitude.
“I still enjoy it,” Badineaux said. “I'll turn 48 on May 4, and I still consider myself young. I agree that I'm getting older, but I'm not old. I take things year by year. I believe I can coach quite a while longer if my health allows.
“I've been truly blessed to have my entire career at my alma mater, in my hometown, where I played, to be close to my parents, to have my daughters (Brooklyn, 15; Sydney 12) enjoy the same friends and schools.”
The Carencro High product played for the Cajuns in the early 1990's under Mike Boulanger, was a student assistant in 1995 and then assistant beginning in 1997.
He was on board for the remarkable 2000 run to the College World Series, and the Cajuns made 12 NCAA Regionals and 4 Super Regionals.
As hitting coach from 2009-12, he helped UL imrpove its batting average by 30 points as well as increasing runs, RBI, triples and on base percentage. The Cajuns had 101 stolen bases in 2010, 82 in 2011, and three of the top four hitting seasons in school history have come under his leadership.
Now UL's Assistant Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel and Program Development, Babineaux deals with non-conference scheduling, travel and eligibility questions.
Under his lead, he put together the Nos. 13 (2015) and 17 (2011) national recruiting classes in the country under the late Tony Robichaux.
The 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2014 Cajuns won the Sun Belt Conference titles, and the 2014 club won 58 games and was rated No. 1 during the season.
Winning has become a habit, and he's been in the middle of it all.
Catch the coaching fever
“The thing I love about coaching is the relationships that are possible,” Babineaux said. “I like to learn what makes them go, see them overcome tough situations and how it clicks when they get it. With all our players, I learn what makes them tick.
“We form and maintain those relationships. I know all their birthdays, and still get on Facebook to wish them happy birthday.”
Sizing up players can be an education in itself.
“Some players have an air about them,” he said. “The way they carry themselves, you can tell they're leaders. Some kind of throw you for a loop. It takes them a little longer. Some wait until they're comfortable to relax as much with the coaches. You're a lot better when you're relaxed.
“Coach Robe (Robichaux) used to talk about kids who would knock the chip stand over when we'd stop for snacks on the road, they were so nervous.”
Robichaux took over from Bollinger, who had succesfful teams, and led the Cajuns to unprecedented heights before his sudden death in 2019.
“He gave me my start early on,” Babineaux said, “and I learned everything from him. He helped me transition from player to coach. He was only 10 years older than me when he got the job, but he'd already had success (at McNeese).
“I was only a couple of years older than some of the players I was coaching, but he taught me how to separate what I'd want, could or should do, He taught about the game, and life, and the game of life.
“After 2-3-4 years here, you learn what the player has become. In some cases, you're with them more so than their parents. Growing up, they may not know what they want.”
College World Series
All the Cajuns wanted in 2000 was a shot at the College World Series, and they got it with a Super Regional win at South Carolina.
The 1999 team fell a game short in Super Regional action against Rice in Houston, and that loss drove the engine the next season.
“We were a young program – just made the regionals three years before – but it was almost like we knew it was going to happen,” Babineaux said. “We had pretty much the same team as in 1999, from that team that lost at Rice.
“We had that same drive. Obviously, you've got to earn it, but we weren't shocked when we got that final out at South Carolina. We had been so close the year before.”
So the Cajuns were Omaha bound, playing in a showcase they had watched for years on TV.
“That was probably our best team, along with the 2014 team that won 58 games,” Babineaux said.
“I remember those 10 days in Omaha like it was yesterday, ”he added. “We had an aggressive style, and were prepared once we got there. We're not here to sightsee. We were there to make a name for ourselves.
“But we lost 6-4 to Stanford, and then sort of ran out of arms to throw out there.”
Babineaux could toot his own horn – literally – about his influence on the team that made it to the CWS, but that's not his style.
Babineaux has other interests in addition to baseball, sparked when he discovered musical talent in grade school.
“I took band in 5th grade as an elective, and was OK at it,” he said. “I wanted to play the trumpet, but the band director said I didn't have the lip to play the trumpet. 'You need to play the saxophone instead.' So I did that for a year.
“When I got to 6th grade, I had a different teacher, and told him 'I'm a trumpet player.' And he went with it. Apparently my lip got stronger in that year.”
Babineaux still plays the trumpet as an adult. He has played at weddings and other functions, and has played the National Anthem before Cajun baseball games.
It's another way to give back to a program that has shaped his life.
“I couldn't have scripted it any differently,” he said. “I played here under Coach Bo, with some very good players who were much better than I was. And it's been a joy to work with some very good players, to be able to stay on full-time after playing here as a student.
“I pinch myself every day when I pull into just about the same parking spot at the complex. I never take it for granted. They gave me my start, and there are guys who are great friends to this day.
“Coach Robe used to say, 'Why not make the most of your opportunity?' And I didn't understand. But now that I'm older, with kids of my own, I get it. It makes sense to me now.”
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Pandemic halts Ragin' Cajuns just when things were looking up
By Bruce Brown
UL's 2020 baseball team will forever be 8-9 in the record books, but that doesn't tell the full story.
A dangerous virus sweeping the globe from China caused a nationwide pandemic that prompted college and pro sports to call a halt to competition until a cure could be found.
That literally left Cajun teams in baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track & field with nowhere to compete, triggering “what if” questions for a lifetime.
“It was the strangest thing I've ever been a part of in 26 years with the program,,” said longtime baseball assistant coach Anthony Babineaux. “To have a stoppage of play – it's always been a full season – there's never been a situation anything like it.”
The Cajuns had stormed back from a slow season start and were preparing to host Coastal Carolina in their Sun Belt Conference opener when they got the news.
“We were practicing that afternoon while the decision was coming down,” Babineaux said. “We had won six of our last seven and had Coastal coming in for a big weekend series. We had a lot of momentum coming into it. There was a lot of anticipation.”
The squad was told after practice that a red light was shining on the season after deliberations by the Sun Belt and NCAA officials.
Student athletes were told to clear our gear from lockers soon to be off limits, and to focus on classwork (via Internet) for the rest of the semester. They were also told that eligibility would carry forward, since the stoppage was no one's fault.
“All the players have been released,” Babineaux said. “A lot of parents want their kids home. We have one from Canada who needed to get home. I told them the best thing they can do is finish with a strong year in the classroom, and to do whatever is safe to do.”
Once the decision was made, details could be addressed.
“We're adhering to everything the pros are saying to do,” Babineaux said. “We'll do our part. I'll be working on budget proposals.They're due soon. We'll talk with Coach (Mike) Deggs about personnel for next year. We can't go out and recruit right now.
“It's wild, for all programs. Not every senior will want to come back. They may want to get on with their lives. Some have no intention of pro (baseball) careers. Some have jobs. Some want to propose and get married.
“There are still a lot of questions about squad size and scholarships for next year.”
For this year, though, competition is over.
It's a bizarre finish to the first season since last year's sudden death of program architect Tony Robichaux. The campaign began with a tribute to Robichaux fueled by high hopes.
Now, after a slow start and an early rebound, we'll never know what could have been.
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Click here for the 1994 Baseball Photo Gallery - Bab's senior year and an outstanding season.
The 2015 Sun Belt Champions are pictured below, with Bab in his traditional role as Coach Robichaux's right-hand-man.
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Click here for the 2007-present chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.
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