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Tony Robichaux's family displayed the class, poise the coach always did at his memorial service

Kevin Foote, The Advocate, July 8, 2019

Even in the moment of their greatest sorrow, the members of Tony Robichaux’s family responded with the class and grace the legendary UL baseball coach always displayed at Sunday’s memorial at the Cajundome Convention Center.

Robichaux died Wednesday in New Orleans after two heart surgeries. From 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday, thousands poured into the Convention Center to help honor the winningest baseball coach and arguably the most respected coach in Ragin’ Cajun athletic history. 

Like Tony Robichaux, I've been obsessed with sports since I was 5 years old.

The funeral is scheduled from 2 p.m. Monday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, preceded by a 10 a.m. viewing time.

“They’re handling it very, very well,” longtime assistant coach Anthony Babineaux said of Robichaux’s family. “I’m sure in the next couple of days, I’m sure they’re going to break down. At least I hope they do. They’re going to need to.”

On Sunday, though, Robichaux’s family were at times delivering as much consoling as it was receiving.

When parents send their children to a university as student-athletes, it's with the hope that their coaches will have a positive impact on the…

“Right now, they’re very strong,” Babineaux said. “(Wife) Colleen has been an incredible rock for their family since this whole thing started a week and a half, almost two weeks ago now.

“She’s actually having to comfort many of the people coming through the line to pay their respects as opposed to them comforting her.”

Babineaux said the members of the team are also doing as well as can be expected.

The beauty of UL Ragin’ Cajuns Tony Robichaux is how he impacted the lives of people throughout Acadiana who weren’t even involved with baseball.

“The team is doing OK,” he said. “When we reached out to them Wednesday after he had passed, some of the conversations were difficult. Everybody expresses themselves differently and grieves differently. Some guys broke down right away and other guys they just couldn’t believe it.

“We had been keeping them up to date on his condition, so I don’t think there was a shock that he did pass. The last message that I sent to the team was more explicit with it than the prior ones. So they knew he was in very, very critical condition.”

For Babineaux and the other coaches on the staff that experience was a tough one. 

Funeral arrangements have been made for Tony Robichaux, UL's head baseball coach, who died Wednesday at 57.

“That was tough to do,” he explained. “We split the list (of players), so I’m trying to console 10 to 15 individuals while trying to collect my thoughts and collect myself to make sure I was strong for those guys. So that was tough. That Wednesday afternoon was really a blur.”

Personally, Babineaux was trying to be as thankful as he could for the 25 years of coaching alongside Robichaux.

“Seeing the thousands of people pouring into this Convention Center to pay their last respects to him,” Babineaux said. “I am comforted to know that for the last 25 years I’ve been able to work side-by-side with him, learn some invaluable lessons and help him teach these kids the way they’re supposed to do things.

“I’ve been blessed to be a part of his life for the last 25 years.”

Babineaux said that first official team meeting once the fall semester begins is going to be a tough one, but that the team will lean on each other to get through the loss of Robichaux.

In the summer of 1994, UL Ragin’ Cajuns baseball was at a serious crossroads.

“We told the players when we called them, we’re going to grieve together and mourn together,” Babineaux said. “We’re going to get through it together. This is going to make us tighter as a family, tighter as a unit.

“I told them all, ‘We’re here for you and we’ll get through this together.’ ” 

Wednesday was another in a series of tough days for Paul Mainieri in the past year.

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.