Baseball: Two decades after Robichaux transformed him into reliever, B.J. Ryan returns to help coach
Kevin Foote, The Advocate, July 24, 2019
It hasn’t been announced yet by the Ragin’ Cajuns baseball program, but UL Athletics Hall of Famer B.J. Ryan is expected to officially be named a new volunteer assistant pitching coach under new head coach Matt Deggs this week.
Ryan would replace Daniel Freeman, who left the program after the conclusion of the 2019 season and before the hospitalization and death of head coach Tony Robichaux.
No, there will never be another Tony Robichaux.
Ryan was part of Robichaux’s first two successful seasons at UL, helping the Cajuns to a 43-18 record in his first season in Lafayette after transferring with ace southpaw Trey Poland from Centenary College in 1997.
Ryan and the Cajuns then won the Sun Belt Tournament title in 1998 with a 39-22 record.
Ryan was drafted in the 17th round by the Cincinnati Reds in 1999 and went on to pitch 11 years in the Major Leagues with the Reds, Orioles and Blue Jays. Primarily a closer, he recorded 117 career saves with 625 strikeouts in 536.2 innings, highlighted by All-Star appearances in 2005 and 2006.
Ironically, Ryan came to UL 22 years ago primarily as an outfielder. In 1997, Ryan hit .306 with nine doubles, four homers and 26 RBIs. As a pitcher, he had a rough transition, going 1-1 with a 5.67 ERA and a WHIP of 2.16 in 10 games, including six starts.
Ryan had started 24 games in his two seasons at Centenary in Shreveport.
After a year in Robichaux’s system, Ryan blossomed both at the plate and on the mound, while making big strides towards his eventual big-league role as a relief pitcher.
In 1998, he was 6-1 with six saves on the mound with a 3.16 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. He only started two of his 24 outings with 72 strikeouts over 57 innings.
He also had a big year offensively in his senior season, hitting .356 with seven doubles, five triples, 12 homers and 39 RBIs.