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Mr. Doug Ireland
168 Moss Hill Terrace
Natchitoches, LA 71457
Northwestern State University
398 S. Jefferson
Natchitoches, LA 71497
|Doug's Living Memorial to the Yvette Girouard Tribute is followed by brief biographical information. His LM was submitted on June 30, 2017 and posted by Dr. Ed Dugas that day.
Doug Ireland - First USL Assistant Director, Sports Information 1982-85; Asst. Athletic Director/Sports Information Director, Northwestern State University 1989 to present (6/30/2017)
An incredible coach, an amazing friend, a devoted daughter, and a fun-loving, unpretentious lady – that was, and is, Yvette Girouard.
When I got to then-USL in August of 1982, I was 22 years old, and she was only a few years older, so we easily connected. But as I quickly realized, Yvette seemed to “easily connect” with almost anyone.
The Lady Cajuns played on a field, not in a ballpark. There was a snow fence for the outfield wall. It would be substandard for the intramural teams today, but Yvette was thankful to have a place to practice, and soon, she had a real field, just the basics of what was a constantly improving facility that she developed and ultimately led to the fabulous structure there today.
I suppose it was sometime that first fall that she asked Dan McDonald to organize a team for a scrimmage game. We had a hodgepodge lineup. I remember Ray Sutley, a good athlete, going to the plate in the opening inning, along with Don Allen, who was quite the golfer and had abundant ability also. I was sixth in the batting order, and honestly, that was a bit frustrating to me. I’d been a pretty fair hand at Jonesboro-Hodge High School, and I knew a couple of folks ahead of me in the lineup – Brad Roll, our strength coach, for one – surely weren’t much with a bat in their hands.
So I get my first trip to the plate, and there are two out in the top of the second, and everybody in front of me has been struck out by Kim Eisnaugle, who turned out to be an All-South Region pitcher. In fact, nobody has even made contact, not even a foul ball. I was still confident.
I always took the first pitch. So I stride into it, the ball is well below my knees, until the last six feet, when it jumped up to the bottom of the strike zone. I hadn’t seen anything like that playing baseball.
It was the greatest pop up to second in my life.
That was probably the first time I heard Yvette’s great laugh, when we were rehashing the game afterwards. It’s a warm chuckle. It’s not hard to find.
It was easy to see Yvette was bringing in talented players from around the area, and sprinkling in a few from far away. As the program emerged on the national scene the recruiting range grew, but the vibe in the program remained family-oriented.
The team made a fantastic summer trip in 1983 to the Netherlands, and I got to write a story about it. What an experience those women and their families had, because as we began to see, their coach didn’t see limitations, only opportunities to be embraced.
Yvette was working relentlessly. Not only to build a program, but to help the family business. She kept the books and helped run Ton’s Drive Inn in Broussard. It’s still there today, still family-owned, and still as good as plate lunches and burgers get. As we cruise through from Natchitoches, we have been known to eat there while driving to Thibodaux for games.
Her parents, Alton and Rose, were Cajun to the core and simply beautiful people. Mr. Girouard was soft-spoken, an outfielder in the fabled Evangeline League. Mama Rose was like a grandmother to the players, a greeter to the fans, and was so joyful to be around. Yvette’s brother Karl and his wife Juanita were great folks and lived right next door to Yvette, a mile west of downtown, on land that is probably surrounded by a subdivision now.
Yvette’s home was a rec center for me, her friends, my friends, and at times, her team. She had a pool, she had a great outdoor grill, and to say “fun was had by all” is the biggest understatement since “it gets humid in the summer.”
I suppose that’s the core of these memories: Yvette had an open-door approach to life, and her coaching. She welcomed everybody, to the park, to the program, to her life. Her players responded by competing fiercely for her, working hard day after day, and daring to dream big.
I was gone after the 1985 season, before the program made its breakthrough on the national level. There were plenty of wins and great moments while I was sitting at the eight-foot folding table set up behind the home plate batting screen, keeping score, and having the Red Dots occasionally run freshly-blended frozen margaritas to me (it was a different time!). They hung Ks for strikeouts and Cliff Broussard’s drawings of blenders for batches of margs out on the centerfield wall. I was there when the Outfield Club was born, and it was unlike anything anybody had seen, anywhere.
Seeing great players like Stacie Gremillion, Ursula Quoyser, Sharen Wynn, the Percles and more was tremendous. Getting to know them was a joy.
I can’t recall details, but I do remember the excitement when we hosted the 1984 Southland Conference Tournament out near Carencro at the new softball complex (Pelican Park) with a turf infield. That was the month of May, when Dr. Authement and others shrewdly accomplished the short-lived name change to the University of Louisiana. For our team to win that championship, at that time, was really big and the community was on fire.
I left in the summer of 1985, but I kept my friendships. I’ll never forget finding out about the drunk driver killing second baseman Lesley Zeller, a wonderful girl, and seriously injuring our dear friend Richard Jenks. That was a terrible time but those involved were blessed to be in a family environment with Yvette at its core.
I watched with great pride as the program rose to the top. I was early in my time as SID at Northwestern when the Lady Cajuns made it to Oklahoma City. Rich and I made the trip and as always, Yvette and her USL team made us very proud, taking third in the WCWS.
Yvette just kept raising the bar for the program. It went far beyond coaching. Let’s just say that it was underfunded and didn’t get great administrative support for far too long. I am certain that Girouard put a lot of her own money forward, and she was drastically underpaid for years but made it by because she was still able to help out with Ton’s.
She told LSU no at least once. Said no to Minnesota’s “write your own ticket” type offer. There were others. She loved her alma mater, she loved representing it, and she loved coaching at home.
But finally, LSU made her an offer she would have been foolish to deny. All the resources available in Baton Rouge dwarfed, at that time, what she could call upon for the program she built and loved. The retirement implications for her were tremendously significant and beneficial in Baton Rouge. It still all but ripped her heart out to make the move, something some people were too blind to believe.
It was painful to see the bitterness that arose between the two programs, and especially, people in the UL fan base who somehow felt betrayed by a person who gave everything she had to her alma mater for two decades. I’m so glad that time has healed wounds. She deserves a hero’s welcome every day they open the gates for practice or for games at Lamson Field, and I know now, she truly loves coming back home again. There oughta be a statue. She’s THAT great.
* * * * *
Assistant Sports Information Director at UL, 1982-1985. Currently the Director of Sports Information of Northwestern State Univerity and the Executive Director of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
|Sports Information:|| 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985|
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