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Baseball: After his 'trip around the bases' legendary UL coach Tony Robichaux makes it safe

Kevin Foote, The Advocate, July 8, 2019

If he wasn’t already experiencing his champagne shower in the clubhouse of heaven, Tony Robichaux would have certainly been taking more mental notes than anyone in the packed church.

There's nothing in his 57 years on earth the longtime UL baseball coach executed more precisely more consistently than using powerful analogies between life and baseball to deliver a needed message.

At Robichaux's funeral Monday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Father Bryce Sibley’s sermon would have made the coach proud while also putting his mind into overload as he tried to firmly grasp all of the big-picture life lessons the speech had to offer.

Sibley’s comforting words utilized the trip around the bases — unique to the sport of baseball — as a clear picture of each person’s journey in life.

In fact, as he was delivering it, I couldn’t help but remember a similar concept Robichaux himself used in a speech at a baseball coach’s meeting.

Robichaux suggested a player looks to the advice of his coach after rounding the farthest point away from home plate — navigating second base — for that final direction needed to make it safely home.

Likewise, Sibley suggested the trip around the bases “symbolizes the journey of each human life” … ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Furthermore, he stated that just like life, a baseball game has no  time restraints.

“A short game can be just as satisfying as one that lasts 8 hours and 6 minutes,” Sibley suggested.

Being a pitching coach who taught a quick pace throughout his career, Robichaux would certainly declare a quick baseball game was even better than a marathon.

All those in attendance in Monday’s funeral — from a multitude of former players to a Who’s Who of UL Athletics to former coaches like John Szefc and Wade Simoneaux to LSU baseball coaches Skip Bertman and Paul Mainieri —  would certainly agree Robichaux’s life was a shorter-than-expected game filled with more quality than any flashy extra-inning thriller.

Sibley said the trip home would likely include some hardships and detours, but that your brothers, your mentors, your father didn’t care … as long as you made it home.

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

Sibley detailed how he was one of the few to speak with Robichaux during his stay at Oschner’s Medical Center in New Orleans after his first surgery.

Sibley said he left the hospital room convinced Robichaux was ready to return home to encounter “the merciful love of God.”

Also, he relayed Robichaux’s conviction that all of us continue to persevere on our journey around the bases. 

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

How fitting it was that one of the final people to visit Robichaux’s casket before it was closed was arguably the best player he ever coached.

On Sunday afternoon, Johnathan Lucroy was carted off the field at Minute Maid Park in Houston after Astros' outfielder Jake Marisnick smashed into the former UL catcher trying to score on a sacrifice fly.

That likely disrupted Lucroy’s plans to drive to Lafayette to say his final goodbye to his old coach, but he made it in the nick of time to celebrate his mentor’s trip home.