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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Ron, Jr. & Randy Robicheaux - Baseball 1983-86 & Ron Robicheaux, Sr.

Baseball big for Robicheaux family

 

 

By Bruce Brown

 

Athletic Network

 

 

Some people leave a big footprint while they're here.

 

The Robicheaux family of Lafayette has left more than their share in baseball – in youth leagues, at Lafayette High and with the USL Ragin' Cajuns in the 1980's – forging memorable moments and lasting impressions along the way.

 

Ron Robicheaux Sr. loaned his name to the Robicheaux Center of the Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department after years of service under the tutelege of M.L. “Tigue” Moore.

 

Ron Jr. was a slugger at Lafayette High who carried a big bat with him at USL from 1983-86, slamming 39 home runs, chalking up 174 RBI and notching 399 total bases in a record-setting journey through college ball.

 

And younger brother Randy played for the Cajuns from 1984-86 and finished with a flourish with 11 homers, a .338 average, 75 hits and three triples in his final year with the Cajuns.

 

There is a comfort level between the two brothers, separated by 16 months. They finish each other's stories and interject details at will, often providing an entirely different view of the action.

 

A rivalry exists, and always will, but they are comfortable with it and proud of each other's achievements.

 

And Ron Sr., whose yard was playground headquarters for the neighborhood, enjoys their adult jockeying almost as much as when he coached them years ago.

 

 

Time to Move On

 

When injuries helped to shorten Ron Jr.'s career, he quit knowing it was time to move on. When mishaps put roadblocks in Randy's dream, it was a pill he still has trouble swallowing over 30 years later.

 

I have no excuses,” Jr, said. “It wasn't meant to be. I played with and against some of the best in the game.

 

I wanted to play at USL, because I knew my dad and the family wanted to go to every game, and because I knew I wanted to wind up here in Lafayette when I quit playing.”

 

Drafted out of high school by the Atlanta Braves, Jr. elected to attend USL and fashioned big numbers despite a recurring elbow injury among others.

 

They flew me to Atlanta and we had batting practice, and I hit two or three home runs – one right over the spot where Hank Aaron hit number 715th. I was one of the few high school players there. Most were older.”

 

But he turned down the Atlanta offer to play for the Cajuns – Mel Didier, fall ball, as a freshman; Brad Kelley, 1983-84; Gene Shell, 1985-86.

 

He ranks second in school history in home runs (39) and third in RBI (174) and total bases (399) and fifth in triples (11). He's especially pleased with that last one.

 

An All-Louisiana choice in 1984 when he hit 13 homers and had 43 RBI (matched in 1986), 10 doubles in 1986 and 66 hits and 5 triples in 1985. In 1986 at La. Tech, Jr. went 5-for-5 with 4 runs, 2 homers and 4 RBI.

 

He played summer ball in Hutchison, KA., after his freshman year and in Alaska the next summer.

 

We went up to visit him in Alaska,” Ron Sr. said. “He had already met his future wife Sue, and was homesick. He was a sick puppy when we left.”

 

The previous summer, Jr. survived an attack by a deranged ruffian when leaving a bar in Hutchinson, escaping with a knife cut to the hand that added to his eclectic list of injuries.

 

 

Driven to Succeed

 

Unlike his older brother, Randy Robicheaux almost went elsewhere to play college ball.

 

USL didn't offer me a full scholarship,” he said. “I was hours away from signing with UNO when Brad Kelley 'let me see what we can do.' So I came to USL, which is where I wanted to go, wanted to stay in Lafayette.”

 

A shortstop and second baseman, Randy battled injuries throughout his career. He suffered a broken hand. A shredded knee was arthroscoped five times, then replaced. A torn rotator cuff hindered both throwing and hitting.”

 

Those were hurdles, but also challenges, to the psyche of a player who fit more on the field than in school by his own admission - “I think I flunked Music Appreciation” - and whose ultimate aim was the Major Leagues.

He played summer league ball in Illinois as a USL sophomore, then was drafted and signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a shortstop the next year.

 

Randy was always driven to reach the big leagues,” Ron Sr. said. “He worked out with the big team in spring training and in rehab. When he was in the hospital, his coach came by and told him he was on his way.”

 

I was treated well by the Pirates organization and by the fans,” Randy said. “I came close to making it. They were willing to work with you.

 

At one point, I was erratic throwing the ball (torn rotator cuff effects). I was throwing the ball away in rookie ball. I got called to the office, and I was scared they were going to cut me.

 

Instead, they moved me over to third base and I did well. Branch Rickey told me they saw something in me.”

 

The younger Robicheaux, who gave up football in high school when two teammates sandwiched him in practice and gave him a hip pointer, was tough enough to fight through pain and surgeries to keep his drive alive.

 

It was the kind of drive that prompted him to try anything competitive.

 

I had a unicycle, but couldn't ride it,” Ron Jr. said. “Randy learned it in no time. He saw a guy juggling on TV, and an hour later he was doing it. He was doing tricks behind his back. Juggling, jumping rope. Gerald Hebert said Randy had the quickest hands he'd ever seen.

 

I think that (competitive nature) was how he defined himself.”

 

Both brothers came close to extremely short careers.

 

In high school, both of us were on the list to be cut,” Ron Jr. said. “We played at Youth Park and I hit two grand slams.”

 

I was a pitcher who wanted to be a position player, and I made a bunch of plays against New Iberia,” Randy said.

 

 

Center of Actvity

 

The Robicheaux household was the center of play for the neighborhood, the perfect launching pad for brothers who tried football, basketball and baseball but were always focused on baseball as No.1.

 

Kids would all play at our place,” Robicheaux Sr. said. “In fact, there was a Honduran family down the street whose kids would come over. One day there was a knock on the door, and their little girl, Maria, said, 'Can Mr. Ron come out and play? ' ”

 

Robicheaux Sr. was the natural choice to coach his sons in their formative years.

 

Like any father, you enjoy coaching your sons,” he said. “Ron started out as a pitcher and shortstop, then when he got to Lafayette High and got injured they moved him to first base. Randy was playing with the 9-10 year olds when he was 8.

 

They were both hard workers and leaders, and I think they treated the other kids right. I worked more with Randy. They were very coachable.”

 

Ron Sr. was an active volunteer for Mr. Moore and the American Legion program.  The Shell Royals, the local American Legion Baseball in 1961, reached the state finals before losing to a New Orleans team that included future Major League star Rusty Staub and future LSU quarterback Pat Screen.

 

Some 21 years later, he was still assisting youth baseball, when Brad Kelley coached Mr. Cook to the 1982 State Legion crown behind Ron Jr. and the late Garrett O'Connor. Randy was still starring in Colt League that year.

 

It was awesome being coached by my father,” Randy said. “He let you know if you did something wrong. He taught us humility. There was very little that was bad about it.”

 

Except for the injuries, the brothers might have set the game on fire.

 

Ron Jr., who discovered early that corrected eyesight leads to home runs, flirted with a collegiate record for consecutive games with a hit at USL.

 

He rated Rafael Palmeiro as the best pure hitter he ever saw.

 

He saw teammate Randy Johnson don a cape and crash helmet to entertain fans in Alaska as Harvey Wallbanger.

 

And he had future relief ace Bobby Thigpen figured out when others struggled.

 

Randy saw spring training action with stars like Barry Bonds and Orlando Merced, comparing favorably when he was healthy.

 

So the “what if” game was tough to swallow.

 

I've seen guys playing on TV that I couldn't believe were in the major leagues,” Randy said. “Sometimes you get the breaks.”

 

 * * * * * * *

Click here for the Athletic Network Profile of Ron Robicheaux, Jr.

Click here for the Athletic Network Profile of Randy Robicheaux.

Click here for the Athletic Network Profile of Ron Robicheaux, Sr.

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Click here for the team photo of the 1985 Baseball Team.

To see other Baseball Photos, click www.athleticnetwork.net  > Photo Gallery > Baseball > then, select the year you wish to view.

For  photo galleries of the Baseball Reunions, click the Ragin' Cajuns Reunions and Special Events Banner on the right side of the News Box on the home page, scroll down and click on the reunion or special event you want to view.

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Click here for an article about the opening of the Robicheaux Recreation Center published prior to the opening in June, 2000.

Click here for an article about the opening of the Robicheaux Recreation Center published after the opening in June, 2000.

Click here for a photo of the Ron Robicheaux, Sr. induction into the Lafayette High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Sept. 20, 2019.

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Click here for the 2007-present chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes. 



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