Baseball: Ragin' Cajuns unveil Robichaux statue - 'It's just too soon' - video + photos
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 15, 2020
Click here for video of the unveiling of the Tony Robichaux statue at the Tigue.
Click here for photo gallery of the Tony Robichaux Statue Dedication.
Seed for the project was planted not long after Tony Robichaux’s death early last July, 10 days after the longtime Ragin’ Cajuns baseball coach had a heart attack.
There was question over whether it was a good idea. There was doubt about how it would turn out. There was uncertainty over whether enough money could be raised to cover the cost.
In the end, the man who spearheaded the effort to honor his old coach – UL’s only head baseball coach the past 25 seasons – couldn’t have been happier about how things turned out.
“It’s amazing when something like this comes together, and it comes together as you had envisioned it – and even better,” former Cajuns pitcher Phil Devey said after the unveiling on a chilly morning Saturday of what was once just a thought in his mind, a larger than life statue of Robichaux that now stands in front of M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
Members of the Robichaux family look on after a statue of late Ragin' Cajuns Tony Robichaux was unveiled Saturday. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)
The $160,000 project was funded solely by Robichaux’s former players, with local businesses pitching in with gratis work on presentation and plaques accompanying the statue itself.
“It’s just a testament to Coach Robe,” said Devey, a Quebec native who played for Team Canada in the 2004 Summer Olympics and made it to as high as the AAA level in pro ball. “It was easy for me and all the players to step up and get this done. It was a no-brainer.
“That’s how much he meant to us, and to be able to do something … for the family, and for our coach, (it’s) something that’s gonna stand the test of time.”
Commissioned to create the statue was Brian Hanlon, a famed master sculptor from Toms River, New Jersey, whose portfolio of work includes a long rundown of who’s who in the world of sports.
Shaquille O’Neal’s and Skip Bertman’s statue in Baton Rouge. The Steve Gleason “Rebirth” statue in New Orleans.
Statues of Yogi Berra and Bob Cousy and Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown and Evander Holyfield and Charles Barkley.
The list goes on and on, and it’s not just sports figures.
Susan B. Antony. Harriet Tubman. Pope John Paul II.
Hanlon – who came from New Jersey to Lafayette for the unveiling – has had his hand in them all.
But this one, he suggested, was quite unlike some of the rest.
“My purpose always is to educate and inspire through these statues,” Hanlon, dubbed the "Sports Rodin" in a 2018 New York Times article, said after the unveiling.
“We have profoundly done both things here, in a way, I think, that this monument, this historical marker, will continue to mentor young men. Which is ultimately what I got from Phil (Devey) – that he was profoundly impacted by his mentor.
“That’s why I came all the way down here for this – because I was so enthralled by Phil’s grassroots effort,” Hanlon added. “This is unique.”
Colleen Robichaux (left), widow of Tony Robichaux, reads a plaque in front of the statue honoring the late Ragin' Cajuns coach along with son Austin and daughter Ashley. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)
Hanlon’s inspiration was the players coached by Robichaux.
“Jobs are jobs,” he said. “I’ve built over 550 statues in America, and some very, very famous people.
“I didn’t go to some of those dedications – because during the process I was turned off by the process.
“This became better and better as we moved on, and I think it’s the gift of grace,” he added. “If that project and that person had that gift of grace, it comes through.”
Also among those on hand for the unveiling in addition to fans, Robichaux’s family members and scores of his current players were all the members of UL’s current club, junior shortstop Hayden Cantrelle – a second generation Robichaux-coached Cajun – among them.
“It’s goosebumps more than anything,” Cantrelle said when asked recently what’s going to go through his mind every time he was past the statue of his former coach.
“You know, we’re playing a game. But what Coach Robe stood for was bigger than the game. So, seeing the statue is … not gonna get old.”
Cantrelle’s father Kevin also played for Robichaux, who took UL to the 2000 College World Series and who was 57 when he died.
He figured the unveiling Saturday would be tough for all involved.
“We all expected that something like this, that a statue of Coach Robe, would be there,” the elder Cantrelle said. “But it’s just too soon.”
Former UL second baseman Jace Conrad, who played for Robichaux’s 58-10 NCAA Super Regional team in 2014, knows the feeling.
He was one of several ex-Cajuns who helped to organize fundraising efforts.
“There’s no coach that has done more in the game of baseball for a group of men than Tony Robichaux,” Conrad said.
“And you go around the country and will see some statues of coaches.
“But in my opinion, those statues are up there because of baseball,” Conrad added. “And this statue is up there because of the life he lived and the example he set for the players he coached.”
The inscription on the wall in front of Robichaux’s statue suggests as much: “Don’t hook your identity to a game,” it reads, quoting Robichaux himself. “Let the way you live your life define who you are.”
The irony, however, is that the statue even exists.
“He was the last guy, you know – him looking down on us – I mean, he never wanted attention on himself,” said Jeremy Talbot, a Robichaux assistant coach the last five seasons. “He’d probably be against it.
“But what an honor. What a privilege for us to be around a human being like that – a teacher, a mentor.
“You miss him, and you’re sad,” Talbot added, “but at the same time, when I look at that statue, I’m going to look at it with tremendous pride and a heart of gratitude that I was able to be in his life for a short time and pick up on some of his wisdom.”
So the statue stands, whether Robichaux likes it or not.
As it should, those influenced by him most firmly believe.
“You know,” senior centerfielder Brennan Breaux said, “the fraternity of alumni players here is unlike anywhere in the country, and all of those guys, for the most part, were led by that one guy that they’re gonna build a statue of.
“And Coach always said, ‘They don’t build a statue of critics. They build statues of guys that separate themselves and go above and beyond their call of duty.’ And Coach did that.”
PLATE PROBLEMS COST CAJUNS
The pitching and defense are just fine.
But Saturday marked another rough day at the plate for the No. 24 UL baseball team, now 0-2 after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Louisiana Tech on M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Hayden Cantrelle’s fourth-inning homer to left that tied the game 1-1 was the only hit of the day for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who struck out 16 times in Friday’s 3-2 Opening Night loss to Southeastern Louisiana.
“It’s a lot of spins, a lot of weak early outs,” UL coach Matt Deggs said. “It’s a lot of them using us against us, a lot of poor pitch selection – which all comes with pressing and carrying at-bats with you to the dish.
“It’s kind of every man for himself, and it just doesn’t work that way with what we do. It never has.”
Louisiana Tech went up for good when Alex Ray scored on Parker Bates’ fifth-inning RBI single.
Bulldog pitchers retired the last 16 straight Cajun batters, with Jonathan Fincher working 6.0 innings and Kyle Crigger getting the save with 3.0 shutout innings.
“We’ve got to get better,” Deggs said. “Right now we’re not very good offensively. We can be. I’ve seen it.
“My eyes haven’t lied to me in 25 years of this game, and I can just tell you: We’ve got a chance to be good offensively.”
Cantrelle isn’t worried either, and put some of it on stress that’s come with UL playing for the first time since longtime coach Tony Robichaux died last July.
“There’s a lot of nerves. It’s been a very emotional weekend so far,” the junior shortstop. “Of course that’s not an excuse. But part of the game is handling those emotions.”
RAGIN’ CAJUNS BASEBALL
No. 24 UL (0-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (1-0 before playing Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday night)
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park
RADIO: KPEL 96.5 FM
PITCHING: RHP Carter Robinson will start for UL
Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
Articles written about Coach Tony Robichaux are to numerous to place in his AN profile. For this reason, only a few have been placed in his profile and others have been placed in Archives News.
Please click on any news story in the news box at www.athleticnetwork.net , then the archives link in the upper left which appears on the new page. Click on the July & 2019 tabs in the format on the Archives Page, then click on the headlines of a story to view the many postings about Coach Tony Robichaux.
Tony played for the Cajuns during the 1983-84 season. Please click here for his Athletic Network profile.