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Baseball: Right-hand man Babineaux always was with Robichaux

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, July 8, 2019

It was on a September day in 1994 that Tony Robichaux was going to be introduced as new head baseball coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns, and Anthony Babineaux ran into him on a street not far from UL’s stadium.

The meeting was not by mistake.

Babineaux had been waiting for Robichaux, who was attending a news conference held to introduce him to the community.

“I introduced myself to him,” said Babineaux, who first came to UL as a Carencro High graduate in 1990, “and he said, ‘I know who you are.’

“I said, ‘Okay, well, that’s (really) not important. What’s important is that, you know, I’d like to get into coaching and finish playing. I’ve got a year of school left. I’m from here; I played here. I think I can help you. You’re gonna need some help.

“And he said, ‘Well, let me go accept the position first, and we’ll come back and we’ll meet,’” Babineaux added. “That’s where it all started for he and I. And thank God that it did start.”

More: Community mourns death of UL coach Tony Robichaux during Sunday visitation

Related: Cajuns coach Robichaux 'was one of the good guys'

UL associate head coach Anthony Babineaux speaks with media as friends, family and fans pay their respects to Coach Tony Robichaux at the Cajundome Convention Center on Sunday.

UL associate head coach Anthony Babineaux speaks with media as friends, family and fans pay their respects to Coach Tony Robichaux at the Cajundome Convention Center on Sunday.  (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)

The first time the two had spoken baseball the ink on Robichaux’s contract was not even dry yet.

Little did Babineaux know he would go on to spend 25 seasons standing next to the man in the dugout at what is now known as M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.

Babineaux, in fact, was Robichaux’s right-hand man until the day – last Wednesday – Robichaux died.

He been there for it all during the Robichaux era, beginning as a student assistant and working his way up the ranks.

And on Sunday, when the Acadiana community gathered at the Cajundome Convention Center for Robichaux’s wake, there was Babineaux – now the Cajuns’ associate head coach and director of player and program development – speaking publicly for the first time since Robichaux was hospitalized June 23 with a heart attack.

This time it was an informal news conference of his own, speaking to a few gathered reporters about the boss who meant so much to him.

Remembering UL's Robichaux: Leger pours his heart out

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After winning more than 1,100 career games, including more than 900 at UL and also including time at McNeese State, and after taking the Cajuns to 12 NCAA Regionals, four Super Regionals and the 2000 College World Series, Babineaux said, Robichaux’s real legacy is “what he did with these kids, and how he prepared them to be men and to face the real world once they got past us.”

His words, spoken with eyes wet behind his glasses, echoed what so many former and current players, and even former and current opposing coaches, have said since Robichaux’s passing.

Babineaux was uplifted by “seeing the thousands of people that are pouring into this convention center to pay their last respects to him.”

“What comforts me? I’m not really sure if anything has, or will, but I am comforted to know that at least for the last 25 years I’ve able to,” Babineaux said before taking a pause to collect himself, “work side-by-side with him and learn some invaluable lessons and help him teach these kids the way you’re supposed to do things.

“So I take comfort in knowing that I’ve been blessed to be a part of his life the past 25 years.”

What the Robichaux family is going through right now, Babineaux agreed, is tough to fathom.

More: Robichaux's Cajuns had 'certain values, certain qualities'

Related: Cajuns coach Robichaux toiled 'to turn boys into men'

“And they’re handling it very, very well,” he said. “I’m sure in the days to come they’re gonna break down. At least I hope they do, because they’re gonna need to. But right now they’re very strong.”

Robichaux, 57, is survived by his wife of 31 years, Colleen; three married children, Ashley, Justin and Austin; his father, Ray; and eight of nine grandchildren.

Both Justin and Austin played at UL under their father, and under Babineaux as well.

In just the first two hours or so of the wake, Babineaux said around 150 former players of Robichaux’s, including former teammates of both Austin and Justin, had visited the convention center to say goodbye.

Many more were expected to come for Robichaux, whose funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church on Johnston Street in Lafayette, preceded by visitation there from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

Countless other supporters of the program and school, plus friends of the Robichaux clan who called Crowley home, were wrapped in a lengthy queue to do the same.

“Colleen has just been an incredible rock for her family since this all started … but they are actually doing good,” Babineaux said.

“You know, she is actually having to comfort many of the people that are coming through the line to pay their respects, as opposed to them comforting her.”

Count Babineaux, who has been there since the beginning, among them.

More: Reds shortstop Trahan on Robichaux: 'You felt that light'

More: Jonathan Lucroy credits Robichaux for opportunity to play in major leagues

More: Would former Cajun Justin Gabriel be a coach now if not for UL's Robichaux? 'Not a chance'

More: Community reacts to Tony Robichaux's passing

More: Cajuns' Robichaux was 'fierce competitor,' but helped LSU before 2000 national title game

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