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Mr. Garrett Wayne O'Connor
209 Rue De Chambery
Broussard, LA 70518
General Manager, Pinhook Location
RIV Corp Chris' Poboys
|Spotlight Feature - March, 2018.
Spotlight on Former Athlete: Garrett O'Connor - Baseball 1982-85
A lifetime in baseball:
O'Connor's seen both sides now
By Bruce Brown
The game of baseball took Garrett O'Connor almost from sea to shining sea.
The Lafayette product and 2003 UL Athletic Hall of Fame inductee grew up with the game, and it had a lifelong influence.
From 8-year-old youth league beginnings with the Beavers, to Lafayette High and the American Legion state title with Burger Chef, to a successful stint with USL's Ragin' Cajuns and a short stay in the minor leagues, O'Connor knew what success felt like on the diamond.
Then, once he finished his playing career, he constructed a second career as an umpire, withstanding taunts and challenges inherent in that thankless job.
Mention O'Connor, and baseball was sure to be the topic.
Now, though, that's changing.
O'Connor still has a high profile in his hometown, but in a different way as manager of Chris' Poboys on Pinhook Road. Instead of ERA and RBI, he's just as likely to discuss bottom line as restaurant fortunes ebb and flow with the local economy.
And when he's not at the restaurant, he's most likely to be fishing at his camp near Lake Fausse Point or elsewhere.
“I enjoy what I do,” said O'Connor, who sat for a chat before opening but is rarely idle once the customers arrive. He's always clearing tables, greeting old friends and others, and checking with staff.
“The owner has been good to me. He allows me to hire good people and run the place like I want. I never stand still.”
Married to second wife Sheri for 13 years, O'Connor has found active contentment at a perfect time.
“I was in the game for more than 40 years (as player, coach and umpire),” he said. “It was time for a change, time to have more time with my family.”
There are plenty of memories, though, and reunions with former teammates feature stories traded long into the night.
Always a pitcher
O'Connor was a pitcher and first baseman when he first began in the game, with pitcher the spotlight position he craved.
His father Jim played football at SLI 1952-55 and older brother Jay played baseball for the Cajuns (1976-79), but a major early assist came from elsewhere.
“(Sheriff) Carlo Listi sponsored our (youth) team, and he was a major influence on me,” O'Connor said. “He always made sure we had the right equipment and that we acted right. The chief of police lived across the street, so between the two of them we had to behave.
“Carlo's son, Corey, was my catcher. I wasn't overpowering, but I threw strikes. When we got to Colt League, I went 13-1 and had a perfect game.”
Then came the first signature chapter in his playing career – American Legion Baseball, coached by Brad Kelley as leader of the Burger Chef squad.
The Chefs went 49-5 and won the state crown at UNO's field. O'Connor was the winning pitcher, and also connected for a dramatic, game-winning, two-run home run.
“It was a bullet,” O'Connor recalled. “A line drive. Probably never got more than 6 feet off the ground. Just inside the foul pole. I just swung as hard as I could. That was fun.
“It was a good experience. I was 19-0, then 19-1 when we lost 4-2 at Legion Regionals in Tennessee. We had pro scouts looking at us.”
Playing for Kelley brought out the best in O'Connor.
“He was my best friend, brother and coach,” O'Connor said. “He was a players' coach, very knowledgeable, and he had connections with pro scouts.”
O'Connor found it tough to break into the lineup on loaded Lafayette High teams, especially when he missed his junior year with a broken kneecap, but he came through with a 7-2 record as a Mighty Lion senior. Coupled with his Legion heroics, he attracted attention.
“Mel Didier was the coach at USL, and he said they didn't have a scholarship for me, but if I would walk on, I would get one,” O'Connor said. “And I did. I was a hometown guy.
“I knew I needed to work on a third pitch. I had a fastball and slider. I believed in velocity, didn't really have a change-up. In the minors, you've got to have a third or fourth pitch to move up.”
O'Connor had 22 wins in a Cajun uniform, including a one-hitter on the road against the Texas Longhorns and a victory over LSU in Skip Bertman's first year leading the Tigers.
An All-Louisiana selection in 1984, O'Connor had 9 wins and a 1.79 earned run average in his top campaign.
“I think we took two of three from Texas,” he said. “We had played good teams like Florida and Florida State, but I think we surprised Texas. Against LSU, I think Xavier Hernandez came on in relief to end it.
“We played in a lot of nice places. To me, Texas A&M had the best college ballpark at the time. Coach Didier ran it like the minor leagues and we always played good teams. He and (UNO's) Ron Maestri used to have some classic duels.”
O'Connor was drafted by Minnesota and by the New York Yankees, but his zeal waned in the minors.
“It's a big cut throat business,” he said. “I found out real quick that it's an individual game, even though it's a team sport. Everyone out for himself. Only 1 in 3,000 make it to the big leagues.
“I did enjoy two years in the Alaska All-America League. Played with a lot of future Hall of Famers, guys like Randy Johnson and Bobby Thigpen.”
Arm issues hastened his departure from playing, but O'Connor coached youth teams for 10 years and quickly made a name for himself as an umpire who called games as far away as college regionals in California.
“The best ballpark I saw as an umpire was at Pepperdine, with the Pacific Ocean in the background,” he said. “That was my last NCAA regional. Spent 6 days there.
“I climbed the ladder with the NCAA. I'm a perfectionist. I wanted to keep a high standard. I became friends with Jim Gilligan at Lamar, who used to talk about keeping a level playing field, and that's what I tried to do.”
Not everyone liked O'Connor's even-handed approach.
“I heard some bad things from the stands, things that upset my kids,” he said. “I told them that those fans may get on you, but your true friends in life will support you.”
But umpiring 45-60 games a year for 25 years takes its toll, and after 44 years in the game, it was time for O'Connor to bid baseball adieu. He looks more relaxed now as a result.
He still works hard, but happily.
And the fish can't question his calls.
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I’ve been with RIV Corporation Chris’ Poboys for 33 Years now and general manager of our Pinhook location. I’m married to Sheri R O’Connor 14 Years and we have five children together. Retired from college umpiring after 26 years.
Posted Feb. 26, 2018.
* * * * *
Four athletes join S Club Hall of Fame
O'Connor, Habetz, Landry, Mdhlongwa make up class.
October 8, 2003
LAFAYETTE - Baseball pitcher Garrett O'Connor, softball-basketball standout Alyson Habetz, football's Gerald Landry and NCAA track and field champion Ndabe Mdhlongwa will be inducted into the UL Lafayette S Club Hall of Fame this week.
The four will be part of Homecoming 2003 activities at the school, including introduction at halftime of Saturday's 4 p.m. football game against UL Monroe at Cajun Field.
Habetz, a Notre Dame of Crowley product who went on to play professional baseball with the Silver Bullets prior to her current stint as a softball assistant at Alabama, will be honored for her contributions to Lady Cajun softball from 1992-94.
She received a bachelor of arts degree in 1995 and was the outstanding graduate for the College of Liberal Arts at UL Lafayette that same year.
During her college career, Habetz was a four-year letterman in softball and basketball. She received All-South Region honors all four years and was named All-American in 1994 and Academic All-American two years.
Habetz helped to lead the Lady Cajuns to their first World Series appearance in 1993.
O'Connor, a former Lafayette High star who pitched and hit his Burger Chef team to the American Legion state championship in 1981, excelled as a Cajun pitcher from 1982-86.
He won 22 games in his Cajun career, including nine in 1984 when he had a 1.79 earned run average and 78 strikeouts, and worked 290 1/3 innings. O'Connor led UL in innings pitched for three straight years.
He graduated from UL Lafayette in 1985 with a degree in Business Administration and is a successful local businessman.
O'Connor, a four-year letterman, received All-Louisiana and All-American honors during his career.
Mdhlongwa (1993-96) graduated from UL Lafayette in 1996 with a degree in General Studies and then received his MBA from UL in 1998.
A four-year letter winner in track and field, Mdhlongwa received All-American honors three times and was an eight-time Sun Belt Conference Champion in the triple jump.
Mdhlongwa was the 1995 NCAA triple jump champion, and competed in both the 1995 World Championships and 1996 Olympics for his native Zimbabwe.
He holds the school record in the triple jump at 55-9 1/4, and also owns the Cajun Track stadium mark of 56-10 3/4 in March 1999 Louisiana Classics competition.
Landry (1963-66) received a B.S. in Marketing and an M.A. in Education from UL Lafayette. He was a four-year letterman in football, receiving All-Conference honors two of those years. Landry holds UL Lafayette records in most extra points and consecutive field goals as well as leading scorer and receiver.
Our goal is to remind each new generation of athletes of the tradition they must uphold and the ideals that they should strive for while they are wearing the UL Lafayette uniforms, S Club President Dwight Prudhomme (football, 1979-82) said.
The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to give recognition to those athletes who have made a significant contribution to the good name of the university by demonstrating exceptional ability and sportsmanship on the playing fields, commendable scholarship in the classroom, high quality leadership on the campus, and who after leaving the university established a personal reputation for character and citizenship in the community which they reside.
The Lafayette Daily Advertiser
October 8, 2003
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Habetz' pioneer legacy is solid
October 12, 2003
Alyson Habetz was a pioneer at a young age.
The Crowley product was such a good athlete in her youth that she joined boys and played on her high school baseball team at Notre Dame.
Habetz soon excelled in both softball and basketball at UL Lafayette, then broke more new ground by playing professional baseball with the Silver Bullets.
It was no surprise, then, to find Habetz among a select group of four honorees inducted Saturday into the S Club Hall of Fame.
"It's an incredible honor to be part of such a prestigious group," Habetz said just before being introduced during halftime of UL's homecoming game against UL Monroe at Cajun Field.
"It's a reflection, really, of the wonderful people who helped me along the way. I had great coaches, teammates, fans and friends. I've been blessed."
Habetz, UL's 1995 Outstanding Graduate in the College of Commerce, is now an assistant softball coach at Alabama under Pat Murphy.
It was poetic justice last May when both Alabama and UL Lafayette were in the Women's College World Series, since Habetz helped the Lady Cajuns to their first WCWS in 1993.
Just as special, though, was her time as a member of the Silver Bullets.
"It had always been my dream to play professional baseball," Habetz said. "The Silver Bullets came along right after college. It was just about the opportunity given, and it came around at the right time."
It also helps to have talent, and the Hall of Fame quartet had plenty of that.
Triple jumper Ndabe Mdhlongwa was an NCAA champion, a multiple Sun Belt Conference champion and an Olympian for his native Zimbabwe. He is now a business consultant living in Dallas.
"I first got the call from Lance (UL track coach Lance Veazey), saying that he nominated me," Mdhlongwa said. Then I got a really nice letter about it, and a month or so later another letter telling me I'd been selected. It's very exciting.
"It never crossed my mind that I would be considered. When you see the emotion of people like Walter Payton and Jim Kelly when they go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you're thrilled to experience something like this for yourself.
"I just wish Boo (former UL assistant Irving Schexnayder) could be here. He couldn't make it, but this is a direct result of his work. This says something for him, too."
Gerald Landry, a star kicker, punter and receiver for Ragin' Cajun football in the 1960's, was thrilled with the S Club recognition.
"This is out of sight," Landry said. "It's my biggest thrill in athletics. One of my teammates, Tom Couste, nominated me. I knew there were certain guidelines, and there were certain records I held.
"There are probably a lot of people happy in Acadiana today, but I've got to be numero uno."
At the halftime ceremonies, the Cajuns were down 28-14 to UL Monroe and Landry was agonizing with other Cajun followers.
"I just hope we can get this thing turned around," Landry said.
Former Cajun baseball pitcher Garrett O'Connor was a Lafayette High product who was part of a turnaround in UL's fortunes in the 1980s.
"We went to the University of Texas and nobody respected us," O'Connor said. "At the time, Texas and Texas A&M were the dominant teams in the game, and we took two of three from them. I pitched a one-hitter, and that helped establish us and made us believe in ourselves.
"Mel Didier and Brad Kelley brought a big-league atmosphere to our program.
"I also remember my win against LSU in Skip Bertman's first year there. Me and Xavier Hernandez beat them."
The Cajuns at the time were loaded with local and area products, and that influenced O'Connor to stick around longer.
"Most of us were from the area, local kids, and that made me want to come back for my final year," O'Connor said. "I had been taken in the first round by the Twins. But I stayed and was picked in the second round by the Yankees."
Now a local businessman, O'Connor relished Hall of Fame inclusion.
"I wish the starting nine could be here with me,' he said. "It's a total team effort. I just get credit for the W. I'm proud for my kids, my family and friends.
"It's a fraternity for life."
There is room, of course, for outstanding women like Alyson Habetz in that select group.
The Lafayette Daily Advertiser
October 12, 2003
|Baseball:|| 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985|
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